The Taiwan Sports Lottery is issued based on the Public Welfare Lottery Issue Act (公益彩券發行條例).
The selection of retailers, prize payout ratio and the use of net revenues must be in accordance with the act, and this has caused operational problems that must be resolved.
A look at foreign sports lotteries shows that retailers selling lottery tickets are mostly related to the sports field and have a thorough understanding of sports.
This has an effect on the promotion of lottery ticket sales.
Looking back at Taiwan, the operator of the sports lottery must obey Article 8 of the lottery act by selecting “handicapped people who are capable of working, Aborigines and single-parent, low-income families” as retailers.
Because of these restrictions, the expertise of retailers is not very closely related to sports.
The result is that there is still much room for improving ticket sales.
Article 5 of the lottery act states: “The prize payout ratio of the lottery shall not exceed 75 percent of the total amount of lottery issued unless otherwise approved by the authorities in charge.”
The 75 percent ceiling restricts the setting of odds and causes operators to avoid such restrictions indirectly by launching “combination bets” in order to increase prize money.
Foreign sports betting Web sites or local illegal underground bookies pay out almost 90 percent. This means that they offer better odds than the sports lottery.
Obviously, such high ratios are much more attractive to gamblers. If one of the government’s purposes of issuing the sports lottery is to combat illegal underground gambling, it may be difficult to achieve that goal when the prize payout ratio is restricted like this.
Finally, the biggest problem created by the act concerns the use of profits.
Article 6 of the lottery act states: “All lottery revenues shall be used by the government only for the national pension system, the national health insurance program’s safety reserve and other social welfare expenses other than social welfare expenses that have been allocated and granted according to the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法).”
Thus all the revenue from the sports lottery goes to social welfare and nothing is fed to the sports sector.
Even though the operator paid the government almost NT$700 million (US$20.5 million) last year and will pay over NT$1 billion this year, neither baseball nor other sports will benefit from the money.
This clearly contradicts the original purpose of the sports lottery, as it fails to interact constructively with the nation’s sports industry, and that is a shame.
At a time when we are discussing the defeat of the Taiwanese team at the World Baseball Classic tournament in Tokyo, I call on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration to propose an exclusive sports lottery act and for the legislature to pass it.
Hopefully, the sports lottery would be able to attract social resources for sports development and maybe even allocate funds specifically for baseball.
By doing so, perhaps Taiwan’s team can make a breakthrough and reach the top again.
Chen Yue-hsin is vice chairman of the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
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