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What is the lottery culture in Thailand?

The lottery is hugely popular in Thailand, with an estimated 68% of adults regularly buying lottery tickets. Thais spend around $5 billion a year on lottery tickets, with the average player spending $300 per year. The lottery is run by the Government Lottery Office, with two main lottery draws per month. Lotteries are a significant source of revenue for the Thai government.

The popularity of the lottery in Thailand stems from several factors. Many Thais view it as a way to get rich quick and escape poverty. With high income inequality in Thailand, the lottery is seen as one of the few avenues for poor Thais to dramatically improve their lives. Lottery wins are life-changing for many Thais. There is also a cultural and spiritual dimension, with many players incorporating Buddhist practices and beliefs into their lottery play.

History of the Lottery in Thailand

Lotteries have been part of Thai history and culture for centuries. The first recorded lottery in what is now Thailand was held during the Sukhothai Kingdom in the 13th century CE. In those early days, lotteries were used by kings to raise funds for public works projects like building temples.

The modern lottery system in Thailand traces its origins to the 1930s under Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram. It was first established as a way to generate revenues for the government. In those early years, the entire system was operated manually.

Over the decades, the lottery has evolved with Thailand’s economic development. The Government Lottery Office (GLO) was formally established in 1969 to regulate and operate lotteries across the country. In the 1970s, lotteries were promoted by the government as a way for the masses to take part in something previously only accessible to the elite.

Major reforms came in the 1990s as the GLO introduced computerization to manage lottery operations and make it more systematic and transparent. Online lottery services also emerged in the 2000s, allowing Thais to buy tickets online. While the lottery system has modernized, the spirit of playing for life-changing wins persists to this day.

Lottery Operations

The Government Lottery Office (GLO) oversees all lottery operations in Thailand. The GLO is under the purview of the Ministry of Finance. There are nearly 10,000 lottery booths across Thailand managed by the GLO where people can buy tickets.

There are two main types of lottery draws:

Monthly Government Lottery

This main lottery draw takes place on the 1st and 16th of every month. For the monthly draw:

– Tickets cost 80 baht each ($2.30)
– Prizes range from 100 baht up to the jackpot of 6 million baht
– Prizes are divided into 8 classes
– Jackpot odds are 1 in 10 million
– 70-80 million tickets are sold per monthly draw
– Draws are televised live across the country

Daily Lotteries

Smaller scale lottery draws are also held daily except on public holidays. For the daily draws:

– Tickets cost 20-40 baht each
– Prizes range from 40 baht to 500,000 baht
– Odds of winning are higher than monthly lotteries
– Around 700,000 tickets are sold per day

The lottery draws employ mechanical ball mixers and machines to ensure fair results. Lottery results are made publicly available after each draw. Unclaimed prizes are kept by the GLO for one year before contributing them to a national fund for social welfare projects.

Key Lottery Games

There are a few major lottery games in Thailand:

Thai Government Lottery

This is the main lottery draw held twice monthly. Players have to match all 6 digits from the randomly generated winning number to hit the jackpot. Lower tier prizes are given out for matching 5, 4, 3 and 2 digits.

Handicapped Lottery

A variation of the government lottery aimed at social welfare. Prizes are split with 70% going to jackpot winners and 30% to a fund for disabled people.

Daily Three/Four Digit Lotteries

Players have to match all 3 or 4 digits depending on the game type to win prizes. This lottery format is drawn daily.

Instant Scratch Lotteries

Scratch card games range from 5 to 100 baht in price. Players scratch off a card to reveal symbols and patterns to see if they win instant cash prizes.

Lottery Game Price per Ticket Top Prize Odds of Jackpot
Monthly Lottery 80 baht 6 million baht 1 in 10 million
Daily 3-digit 20 baht 80,000 baht 1 in 1,000
Daily 4-digit 40 baht 400,000 baht 1 in 10,000
Scratch Cards 5-100 baht up to 100,000 baht Varies

Where Lottery Tickets are Sold

There are close to 10,000 lottery booths across Thailand run by the GLO as the main outlet for ticket sales. Lottery tickets can be purchased at these booths up to 15 days in advance of a draw. Many convenience stores, supermarkets and shops also sell lottery tickets as authorized retailers.

In recent years online lottery ticket services have emerged. Websites like LottoVIP allow Thai players to buy legitimate lottery tickets online for the major draws. Players can place orders up to 3 days before a draw. Some unauthorized online sellers also cater to local and foreigner buyers.

Many Thais buy lottery tickets in bulk for resale. Resellers set up stalls in high traffic areas to target impulsive buyers and sell at marginal markups. Some vendors buy tickets to other regions so players can try their luck in other provincial draws.

Demographics of Players

Lottery play in Thailand cuts across regions, income levels, age groups and education levels. Based on surveys and studies of Thai lottery players:

-Around 68% of adults play the lottery

-Low income Thais are the biggest demographic bloc, making up over 50% of players

-Over 70% of players have only a high school education or lower

-Those in rural areas or urban slums tend to play more frequently

-Unemployed and part-time workers rely more on the lottery for income

-Younger adults under 30 are playing lotteries more often

-Men used to be the primary players but women now make up 45-50% of lottery players

While widespread, lottery play is concentrated among low-middle income Thais with lower educational levels, likely reflecting their higher motivation to find ways out of poverty.

Reasons for the Popularity of Lotteries

There are several driving factors behind the Thai lottery craze:

Hope of Striking it Rich

The potential for life-changing winnings is a prime motivator. Even a small win goes a long way for those surviving on low wages. Jackpot recipients gain instant millionaire status.

Poverty and Income Inequality

With Thailand’s rising wealth gap, the lottery gives the poor a chance to change their circumstances against the odds. Less affluent Thais have limited upward mobility and risk tolerance, making speculative lottery play more attractive despite low odds of success.

Dreams and Aspirations

Lottery marketing taps into the hopes and dreams of ordinary Thais. Big winners are touted in ads as examples of success. For many, winning represents the means to fulfill lifelong goals.

Buddhist Practices

Many Thai players weave Buddhist rituals and lucky charms into their lottery play, praying for fortune and making offerings at temples. Their Buddhist beliefs incentivize them to play.

Entertainment Value

Beyond just winning, many see playing as a form of entertainment. Checking results and anticipating wins offers excitement. Office lotto pools add bonding.

Government Backing

The lottery’s government-backing through the GLO gives it legitimacy. Thais view it as a legal means of gambling backed by authority. This trusts engenders loyalty and sustained interest.

Notable Lottery Wins

With its popularity, the Thai lottery has produced many notable winners over the years:

Thailand’s Biggest Ever Lottery Jackpot

In 2018, a retired civil servant won a record 29.9 million baht jackpot (just under $1 million USD). He bought the lucky ticket on vacation while visiting his homeland in Udon Thani province. The man continued working his modest job even after the historic win.

A Bangkok Taxi Driver’s Luck

In 2016, a 61 year old taxi driver living in a Bangkok slum won 12 million baht. He immediately quit driving to go into early retirement. Part of his winnings went to providing for his children.

12 Co-workers Split a Jackpot

In 2015, 12 coworkers at an architectural lighting company in Pathum Thani won a 22.2 million baht jackpot which they split evenly. They had pooled their money to buy tickets every month. The win prompted excited celebrations at the small firm.

Prisons Officer Wins Twice in One Year

In 2017, an administrative officer at a Bangkok prison won a 15 million baht jackpot just 10 months after claiming 8 million baht in an earlier draw. The highly improbable repeat win fueled suspicions of corruption but was deemed legitimate.

Blind Ticket Vendor Defies Odds

In 2014, a blind lottery ticket vendor won 12 million baht in a draw even though he could not fill out or check the tickets he was selling. His good karma was viewed as helping him overcome the odds.

Superstitions and Traditions

Thai lottery players embrace many superstitions and traditions believed to improve their luck:

Wearing Certain Colors

Colors like yellow, green and red are thought to bring fortune. Players wear clothing in lucky colors on draw days.

Buddhist Offerings

Making offerings and saying prayers to Buddhist saints or deceased relatives are believed to bless one’s chances.

Auspicious Numbers

Numbers like 5 and 9 which sound similar to Thai words for prosperity are preferred. The number 168 is highly sought as it rhymes with the phrase for “sudden wealth”.

Charms and Amulets

Carrying lucky charms like a mongoose or snake amulet purported to have divine power can improve luck.

Dreams and Omens

Dream dictionaries help players interpret dreams to derive the numbers they should play. Seeing inauspicious omens like a black cat means avoiding unlucky numbers.

Temple Visits

Making vows and praying to Buddha images at temples on lottery draw days is thought to gain favor. Monks blessings may also transfer fortune.

Lucky Foods

Eating foods like bitter bean salad, crispy catfish, boiled eggs, and certain bananas are believed to boost your lottery chances if consumed before buying tickets.

Problem Gambling Concerns

Despite generating revenues for social welfare, overzealous lottery play risks becoming addictive:

– About 9% of lottery players exhibit gambling addiction tendencies

– Those with lower education and incomes are more susceptible

– Cases of excessive debt, crime and suicide linked to lottery obsession

– Players falling prey to illegal underground lotteries with worse odds

– Youth increasingly taking up the lottery habit

To combat problem gambling, Thailand’s government restricts advertising and requires warnings about responsible play. However, more serious social measures may be needed to curb addictive behaviors.

Risk Level Behaviors
Low Risk
  • Spends less than 5% of income on lottery
  • Mainly plays major draws
  • Sees it as entertainment
  • Accepts losses
At Risk
  • Spends 5-20% of income on lottery
  • Frequent plays and ticket buys
  • Has unreasonable expectations
  • Chases losses
Problem Gambling
  • Spends over 20% of income
  • Preoccupation and obsession
  • Borrowing to finance play
  • Loss of control


In summary, the lottery holds a deeply rooted place in Thai culture and society. For many Thais, it represents hopes and aspirations more than mere gambling. However, while bringing fun and excitement, lottery play also carries social risks of addiction. As an integral part of the culture, the Thai government faces the challenge of controlling any excesses of lottery fever in a balanced manner. With prudent regulation and responsible play, the lottery will likely maintain its popularity and cultural significance.