Illegal lottery thriving in Tamil Nadu despite 2 decade old ban

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Last week, a 54-year-old yarn commission agent of Ellapalayam in the Erode city ended his life after claiming in a video that he lost ₹62 lakh in a lottery. But the lottery is illegal in Tamil Nadu since a ban in 2003.  An IANS report on Thursday said a lottery conglomerate that was successfully running the business in Tamil Nadu before the ban was enforced is behind the illegal lottery business in the state.

Despite the ban, a daily turnover of Rs 10 crore is taking place in Tamil Nadu from sales of lottery tickets according to reports. It is also an ongoing practice to sell the lottery tickets of Kerala and other states with the last three digits used to decide the prize.

An agent of the lottery king who has stopped the business ever since it was banned in Tamil Nadu told IANS, “People who get 500 to 600 rupees per day spend the whole amount on such illegal tickets expecting that they will get the prize and on almost all occasions they end up on the losing side. This leads to excessive drinking and in extreme cases suicide and unless the local police take stringent action, this will continue.”

Also read: Is Coimbatore based Santiago Martin funding TMC’s national expansion?

The Tamil Nadu police occasionally conduct a crackdown on the illegal sale of lotteries and in January 2022, 569 people were arrested and Rs 50 lakh was confiscated from them. However, sources told IANS that after that crackdown there was no further action by the law enforcement agencies. While the IANS report does not name the conglomerate, by using the term Lottery King, IANS points to Coimbatore based Santiago Martin.

Santiago Martin, also known as Lottery King Martin, is the owner of Future Gaming and Hotel Services (P) Ltd) and a business tycoon hailing from Coimbatore who built his business empire by printing and distributing lottery tickets. Future Gaming now handles government paper lottery schemes for the northeast governments with a near-monopoly. With lotteries legal only in a handful of states, apart from Kerala, where the state government does not permit private distributors, West Bengal is the biggest market for the paper lottery business and for Martin.

A landless labourer originally from Myanmar, Coimbatore-based, Martin built his business empire distributing lottery tickets, initially in Tamil Nadu and then expanding to Karnataka and Kerala. But in 2003, Martin had to take his business outside Tamil Nadu, as the Jayalalithaa government banned the sale of all lotteries, including online, within the territory of the state.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) recently provisionally attached movable assets worth Rs 409.92 crore in a lottery scam case involving Santiago Martin, better known as ‘Lottery King’.  The ED has attached various immovable and movable assets of Future Gaming & Hotel Services under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).

The ED in December had provisionally attached Martin‘s immovable assets worth INR 19.59 crore in connection with the Sikkim lottery scam. The financial crime investigation agency before December had attached properties worth INR 258 crore belonging to Martin.