PNG introduces the Mobile ‘Stupid Tax’

By Emmanuel Narokobi

The ‘Stupid Tax’ or more commonly known as ‘Gambling’ has always been a great way for Lotteries the world over to make money from people’s stupidity. But for PNG’s sake should we add that perhaps low education and low social standards should be something to be wary of when making money from people through gambling?

I think Gambling has its place and better that it is regulated rather than being underground. To be honest I wouldn’t mind running a scratch lotto or something like that which is based outside and away from influences of alcohol because I can think of the countless hospitals I would love to assist with that sort of money.

But as everyone knows gambling is a restricted activity much like alcohol where licences are issued to operate such activities. The main purpose of the licence is obviously to regulate how these types of businesses are conducted because of its potential to be socially counter productive if it is abused. So perhaps in a developed country stupidity is one thing for getting mixed up in gambling, but what about PNG? What are the controls here then for abuse? And more alarmingly how do you impose restrictions for gambling on a mobile phone? Oh and are there any social programs associated with this SMS Lottery?

Customers to gamble using Digicel mobile phones


Exciting times are approaching in gambling. After more than eight years, Papua New Guineans will start, this Wednesday, play lottery at the comfort of their Digicel mobile phones. For K4 and a 20toea fee, you can become millionaires every week regardless of where you are anywhere in the country. Draws will be done every ‘Super Saturdays’ and you can enter as many times as you like.
On Wednesday night, National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) Chief Executive Officer Simon Sanangke will enter his first entry and kick off the lottery game in Port Moresby.

ALL you have to do is text 6677 and enter six numbers of your choice which will be entered into the weekly draw.
The draws will be done on a computerised system and results will be forwarded straight to your mobile phones. If your numbers are picked, PNG Lottery, the company managing the lottery game, will contact you and get your personal details.
Your win can be collected in Port Moresby or delivered to you if you live in a remote area. If you live in an urban area and have a bank account, your win will be remitted straight into your bank account.

Second level prizes will be a quarter of the jackpot while third level prizes will be a quarter of the second level prize. For instance, if the first prize is K1 million, the second level prize will be K25,000 while the third level prize will be K8300. The server and systems that will run the lottery has been installed right next to the office of the NGCB in downtown which will make it easy to run and regulate.

PNG Lottery managing director Paul Siwi told the Post-Courier in an exclusive interview last Friday that mobile phone lottery would be a convenient and cheaper gambling venture with a very high stake that could change your life.

“You just compare it to poker machine. You lose more quickly in poker machines and the jackpot is only K10,000 but for the same amount, you can submit as many entries as you can and become a millionaire through mobile phone lottery,” Mr Siwi said. ery easy to identify regular players through their mobile phone numbers and bonuses will be remitted through their phones to play.
Options like Christmas and New Year bonuses will be thrown in such as if your bonus number is picked from your entries on top of your regular numbers, you could win a landcruisers or some other prizes. The last lottery company in PNG, Go Lotto went bust some 8 years ago after differences between shareholders and directors.”

[I have to declare here that I am actively involved in SMS campaigns for marketing so if I am successful in getting more campaigns out there for clients I too may be part of the issue here. But then again I think in my defence I can say that I am involved in marketing and not active gambling. But it makes me wonder, what is the difference between people winning prizes and cash from companies as part of marketing promotions as opposed to winning money from a company that’s called ‘PNG Lottery’? Anyway thats an impractical theoretical arguement so I wont go there.]

7 thoughts on “PNG introduces the Mobile ‘Stupid Tax’

  1. …oh of course it’s ok for Digicel to do this… cause they have the Digicel Foundation to buffer it. And Digicel knows exactly what is good for Papua New Guinea and its people. Lovely work Digicel. Gambling is exactly what the people need.

  2. The people have choices.

    What’s the difference between this and the other raffles/promotions Digicel (or any other company for that matter) has offered in the past? Now they’re sharing the (albeit larger) proceeds with another company – PNG Lottery, and it looks to be an on going competition.

    The people have to take responsibility for their actions – whether it be doing drugs, consuming alcohol, chewing betelnut, having unprotected sex, smoking, or gambling.

    1. Volz, was having a think about it and I think you have a good point there. The main gambling we know of is the bookies and the races and pokies. What I especially dont like about Pokies is that it is conducted in direct correlation with alcohol consumption which adds more problems along the way. However by diversifying the gambling industry (because it is a necessary evil) we can then water down the conduct by giving options for participating in gambling.

      The flipside of course is that the National Gaming Control Board then has more money to give out to the community.

  3. The only problem i have with mobile phone gambling is the lack of economic control. Its expensive to play pokies, whether associated with alcohol or not. I guess economic control helps deter irregular players from becoming regular and in some cases, addicted gamblers.
    However, this sort of economic control is not in place with the new mobile phone gambling. The economic entry level to play is quite low, only K4.20. Its possible that many casual players will take up the sport of entering 6 numbers into their Digicel phones to win millions, and many other more serious gamblers may also shun the Pokie parlour for the mobile phone.
    It may hurt the pokies industry, which, though we may shun it, creates employment and revenue for many people. It’s a competitive advantage, possibly an unfair one that the NGCB has given the PNG Loto Limited and Digicel as the Pokie industry depends on serious players.
    It also is not easy to regulate the age of people playing, ie kids could play and use up their lunch money in the process.
    I think that if NGCB wants to give the licence then they should make it K50 or more for people to play using their mobile phones. This will make it less likely for kids to play and also be fair to the pokies houses.

    1. Good point Jaive. I think maybe then if some sort of age verification system was in place then that could assist in ‘economic control’. Then we can deter against children playing while offering alternatives to the dangers of Pokies.

      But this then raises another question, isn’t any or all types of text and win competitions the same as this so called ‘text lotto’? Whats the difference between Digicel giving away cash prizes for their marketing campaigns and PNG Lotto giving away cash prizes? Looks like its the same thing to me. In Australia any type of text and win comp requires a warning note that you have to be over 18 to participate. So Digicel can’t be suddenly jumping up and down about this and switching the service off, they need to work with all stake holders to properly develop the marketing industry with controls or else we’ll just end up with spam and under age involvement in such activities.

  4. I think the difference is the nature or size of the prize and the ultimate goal for the company and the user.

    A few hundred kina promotion is Okay but its not as behaviour changing as the chance to win K1 million.

    In the Digicel promotions i think they are rewarding loyalty and i people are taking part in the promotion because Digicel is ‘their’ service. Its about the sense of ownership and brand identity.

    But with mobile phone gambling, Digicel is not rewarding loyalty and people are not using Digicel because of any sense of ownership; instead they are using the network to win K1 million. This i think is the difference between a promotion that rewards brand loyalty and a machinery for gambling.

    On a national level, branding and all the strategies that go with it are important to the economy as they help to grow and enhance the service of the brands and the industry. Digicel and BeMobile have mobile phone licences so they can compete with each other and improve communication in the country.

  5. I like Jaive’s idea about economic control as a way of discouraging the under-aged and the economically less privileged from wasting their money away. But I have a feeling such a move might not net the critical mass required to make this venture profitable for its proponents.

    Then there’s another problem of what extent those who can’t afford it, including the under-aged, might go to try their luck. K1 million is definitely a behaviour changing reward and it can potentially cause all sorts of social upheavals in our communities. Pick pockets will reach a new level as thugs line up our bus stops to scare the living daylights out of the travelling public to steal some cash just to buy some units to enter the draw. I’ll leave the rest to your imaginations.

    Unlike the pokies, there are no physical controls. No one stands at the gates to decide who gets in and play. There are no technological controls either. The only control I can see is as suggested by Jaive. But that would mean raising the bar very high to say K1,000 per bet in order to completely discourage gambling by those who can not afford it and hence reduce the chances of social upheavels it might cause.

    Nervous times!

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