The words gambling, betting and lottery are often assumed to be different names for the same thing.
Lottery is a game of chance, where winning is entirely random and is determined by the number of people who participate. The proceeds from the sale of tickets are used to award winners as prize money, contribute to a social cause and pay the costs of administering the lottery.
A lottery is an impulse buy, while betting and gambling are pre-planned activities.
Imagine if after shopping you have some loose change in your pocket then you see a lottery vendor and purchase a ticket. The purchase is impulsive and random. What drives you to buy is that you have some loose change, and you use it to take a chance to win some money. Even if you are not lucky, you will still have used your money to support a cause that will benefit the society.
There are more than 20 betting and lottery companies in Kenya, and the number is growing. This warrants a clear breakdown of the differences, even as more Kenyans make the choice to take part in the rapidly growing industry.
People who participate in a lottery often shy away from gambling and other forms of betting. It is not strange to find ardent participants in the lottery speak out against gambling. To the careless eye, this may seem like double standards. However, betting and gambling require the participant to set aside money.
Take sports betting, for instance. One has to make calculated predictions, which call for planning your resources plus knowledge of the field you are participating in.
A lottery is a game of chance whereby you buy a ticket based on your choice of lucky numbers and then you wait for draw day to know your outcome. Winners are determined in a draw where the numbers are picked randomly by a lottery machine. The outcome does not depend on a more or less predictable fact but purely on chance.
In gambling the money you stand to win depends on the amount you put in. While one stands a chance to win a large sum in gambling, they also stand a higher chance of losing a large sum.
A bet, on the other hand, is a pledge made on the outcome of a given event, such as the results of a football match. The bettor hopes to receive a reward if his prediction comes true. Here, the question of who gets the money depends on the correctness of the ‘prediction’ or expectation of the bettor.
In the lottery, you know you stand a chance to win either getting money on draw day or supporting a social cause that is run by the particular lottery. Whether or not you will win is a different matter altogether as the lottery is all about chance and picking random numbers. The critical difference here is that unlike the rest, the lottery is purely random and no prediction or pre-plans are made.
Lastly, to reiterate this point, when you participate in a lottery and do not win, the money still goes to a good cause. This, then, becomes a win because your lottery ticket helped to advance a social cause. Lotteries worldwide are used by governments and private organisations to transform societies by raising funds.
In the end, like every other game or decision in life, we need to be discerning, thus the importance of knowing the difference and making an informed decision.
Heri Mwagonah is Head of Marketing, Pambazuka National Lottery
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