As the current debate over the proposed law on gambling heats up, it is easy for issues to get mixed up. One of the most overlooked, and often assumed, issues is that the words gambling, betting and lottery are different names for the same thing.
The first thing we need to establish is that lottery is a game of chance where winning is entirely random and is determined by the number of people who participate. The proceeds from the sale of tickets are used to award winners as prize money, contribute to a social cause and pay the costs of administering the lottery.
A lottery is an impulse buy while betting and gambling is a pre-planned activity.
Imagine with me, after shopping you have some loose change that you will put in your pocket then you see a lottery vendor and purchase a ticket. The purchase is impulsive and random. What drives you to buy is that you have some loose change, and you use it to take a chance to win some money. Even if you are not lucky this time round, you will still have used your money to support a cause that will benefit the society.
There are currently over 20 betting and lottery companies in the country, and the number is growing. Clearly, this warrants a clear breakdown of the differences, even as more Kenyans make the choice to take part in the rapidly growing industry.
People who participate in the lottery often shy away from gambling and other forms of betting. It is not strange to find ardent participants in the lottery speaking out against gambling. To the careless eye, this may seem like a double standard. However, this could not be further from the truth. Betting and gambling requires the participant to set aside money. Take sports betting, for instance. One has to make calculated predictions, which calls for planning your resources plus good knowledge of the field you are participating in.
A closer examination of what is entailed in the lottery and in gambling reveals a world of difference between the two concepts.
A lottery is a game of chance whereby you buy a ticket based on your choice of lucky numbers and then you wait for draw day to know your outcome. Winners are then determined in a draw where the numbers are picked randomly by a lottery machine. The outcome does not depend on a more or less predictable fact but purely on chance.
This is not the case with gambling; where the amount of money you stand to win depends on the amount of money you put in. While one may stand a chance to win a large amount of money in gambling, they also stand a higher chance of losing a large amount of money.
A bet, on the other hand, is a pledge made on the outcome of a given event, such as the results of a sports match. The bettor hopes to receive a reward if his prediction comes true. Here, the question of who gets the money depends on the correctness of the “prediction” or expectation of the bettor.
In the lottery, you know you stand a chance to win either getting money on draw day or supporting a social cause that is run by the particular lottery. Whether or not you will win is a different matter altogether as the lottery is all about chance and picking random numbers. The critical difference here is that unlike the rest, the lottery is purely random and no prediction or preplans can be made.
Lastly, and most significantly, to reiterate this point, when you participate in the lottery and do not win, the money still goes to a good cause; such as environmental protection, health or education. This then becomes a win because your lottery ticket helped to impact a social cause positively. Lotteries worldwide are used by governments and private organizations to transform societies by raising funds.
In the end, like every other game or decision in life, we need to be discerning participants, thus the importance of knowing the difference and making an informed decision.
Written By Heri Mwagonah
Heri Mwagonah is the Head of Marketing, Pambazuka National Lottery