KOZHIKODE: The lottery department in general and finance minister Thomas Isaac, in particular, is worried about the expanding base of the ‘Ezhuthu lottery’. The three-digit lottery operates on multiple digital platforms from overseas servers. The hi-tech cell of the state police could not locate the countries of servers so far, though it had identified four platforms. The agents are enrolled through the websites and coordinated through mobile applications. Each district has 50 to 100 agents, and each has the same number of sub-agents. On a rough estimate, their daily sale is around Rs 60 crore.
Many in the lottery department who tracked the ‘Ezhuthu’ lottery believe the ‘lotto king’ is involved in the centralised and massive illegal lottery which has already caused a drain on the public exchequer. The issue came to light when they felt a sudden stagnancy in sales and a dip in revenue, and sellers started complaining about the parallel lottery. The state lottery's daily turnover is around Rs 30 crore whereas the illegal lottery is believed to be around Rs 60 crore, sources said.
Mr Isaac said the tentacles of the illegal lottery are far and wide. “It is highly centralised looting on a digital platform, the server of which is yet to be located,” he told DC. “It is very much addictive too. We are on with strict action including a series of raids in each district by Crime Branch." However, he evaded the queries on the reports that the ‘lotto king’ is behind it. “Whoever it is, the matter is under investigation,” he said. "The lottery department has started cancelling licenses of agents the CB arrested for selling Ezhuthu lottery."
The crime branch arrested 56 persons in raids in January, registered 50 cases and confiscated Rs 70 lakh. The functioning of the racket begins with the agent noting down a three digit number cited by the gambler paying just Rs 10. If it turns to be the same that of the three last digits of first prize winning ticket of the state lottery, the speculator will get Rs 5,000. In the same way, the prices for second and third prizes are Rs 500 and Rs 250 respectively. Crime branch IG S. Sreejith who is monitoring the investigation said the hi-tech cell was on its trail. “Moves are afoot to track the location of the server which is running the mobile applications and the website,” he told DC.