Billy Plummer.
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The Thai Lottery. 

All over Thailand, lottery vendors can be found roaming markets, streets, and villages carrying signature slim ticket briefcases with their faded, but still eyecatching psychedelic lids.

The Thai lottery began during the reign of King Rama V (1868–1910) when the king granted the Royal Bodyguard permission to operate a lottery on his sixth birthday in 1874. Lotteries were held intermittently until 1933 when they became a huge source of income for the government. Over the years the price of a lottery ticket has climbed from one baht to its present official price of 80 baht, although that price has been seldom observed, a surcharge invariably being added. 

Lottery tickets come in "ticket-pairs". The official cost of a single ticket is 40 baht, but lottery tickets can only be purchased in ticket-pairs, making the official retail price 80 baht.

The official price is almost always marked up. Roaming street vendors might ask 120-130 baht for a ticket-pair. Prices can vary by the auspiciousness of ticket-pair numbers. Unpopular numbers are cheaper—85, 90, or 95 baht—while lucky Buddhist number combinations cost more.

The Thai search for winning lottery numbers is insatiable and vary often based on superstition. Thais often pick numbers based on news events or oddities they observe: the number of bananas on a stalk or the appearance of a two-headed fish, cats with strange markings, or the pattern a snake leaves in the dirt. Various websites and soothsayers help interpret these events, with rats viewed as a one, water a two, snakes a five (large) or six (small) and anything related to royalty a nine.

Thais believe that calamity begets good fortune, and that tragedy gives rise to powerful ghosts who offer guidance on winning numbers. Newspapers report the license plate numbers of cars involved in gruesome accidents. Lottery aficionados note the highway route numbers where accidents took place, tally the casualties, and play the numbers. Nothing is seen as too macabre to be a source of good luck.

As is often the case in Thailand, lottery ticket prices above the 80 baht threshold are negotiable.

June. 2019.

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