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Online lottery still popular in Bhutan despite ban on it


With his head almost touching the small sheet of paper on a rickety table, Ugyen is busy. The corporate employee, a commerce graduate is working on probability, a branch of mathematics that deals with quantities having random distributions.

On his Samsung mobile is an excel sheet. Ugyen will work out a number that would probably win him some money in a few hours. For the few months, Ugyen had been hit with Teer (arrow in Hindi), his latest obsession with the newest online gambling.

There are thousands, and the number is growing, Bhutanese hooked to the mobile phone–based online gambling.  This is despite the Department of Law and Order (DLO) asking people to refrain from illegal gambling. Clamping down on what players see as a harmless online gambling is difficult.

Teer originated in North East India. Teer has been around for about as long as the state of Meghalaya, which was carved out from Assam in 1972 and includes Khasi, Garo and Jaintia Hills. It is legal in Shillong from where it reached Bhutanese players.

There are about 70 to 80 unofficial groups running the Teer lottery business through social media platforms, most popularly the Chinese social networking App, WeChat. Each group has more than a hundred customers. The system works on mutual trust among the group members and the admins of the group.

Bhutan Lottery, a State-owned Enterprise (SoE) is the only authorised lottery operator in Bhutan. Chief Executive Officer of Bhutan Lottery, Phenphay Drukpa said that the issue is not about the competition with illegal lottery organisations but the law only allows authorised lottery operation.

Agents of the Bhutan Lottery are unhappy because online gambling hampered their business. The SOE has 60 to 70 percent sales despite illegal lottery business in full swing. Phenphay Drukpa said, “Our sale could have increased if there was no online gambling.”