The Madras Lotteries

The Asylum and Road Lottery

Indian lotteries too have a history that goes back to nearly three hundred years. In Goa, lottery was introduced during the Portuguese rule and in Calcutta during the British rule. In Madras - the state of Tamil Nadu as it is known now - lottery draws were conducted in the 1700s. First mention of a state lottery appears in records of 1781, during the first year of Lord MaCartney's government.

In an official despatch to London, dated 26th January 1782, he wrote 'the carnatic overrun by HyderAli's troops, the Madras population famished and the treasury empty'. He wrote that the council members had been executing their duties without receiving emoluments from the government. As bills on England were forbidden, MaCartney tried a local loan application to Bengal and a lottery. Though his attempt to replenish the treasury through lotteries failed, it marked the beginning of a revenue generating entertainment that was to become popular.

The documents of a free merchant Peter Massey Cassin reveal that he proposed the setting up of an Exchange in Fort St. George, the expenses to be met by a lottery. In his correspondence to the government, dated 29 June, 1787, he suggested 'a place to transact business, to meet and determine disputes and differences'. His plan met with government approval. As the Chief Engineer Colonel Ross found the site suggested by Cassin unsuitable, Cassin suggested purchase of the property owned by one Mr. Robert Hughes. In his letter he noted 'as the purchase of private property enhances the expense of the building, I have taken the liberty to propose....... an Augmentation of the Lottery Fund; that the money be deposited in the Hon'ble Company's Treasury, to remain there without any interest till after the drawing of the lottery and then to be applied to the discharge of the prizes agreeable to the accompanying Memorandum'.

His suggestion was to divide 100,000 pagodas into 10,000 shares of tickets at 10 pagodas each. The first prize was 5,000 pagodas, two numbers of second prizes of 2500 pagodas each, five numbers of third prizes of 1,000 pagodas each, ten numbers of fourth prizes of 500 pagodas, twenty numbers of fifth prizes of 250 pagodas, fifty numbers of sixth prizes of 100 pagodas, hundred numbers of seventh prizes of fifty pagodas and 3212 eighth prizes of twenty pagodas each. The government received a profit of 10,000 pagodas - the amount having been used to buy Mr. Hughes' house, where Fort Museum functions today.


The Memorandum has been reproduced as it appears in Vestiges of Old Madras - Volume III

Prize			No		Amount		Total
I			1		5,000		5,000
II			2		2,500		5,000
III			5		1,000		5,000
IV			10		  500		5,000
V			20		  250		5,000
VI			50		  100		5,000
VII			100		   50		5,000
VIII			3212	   	   20	       64,240

First drawn Ticket 500, Last drawn Ticket 260 3,400 prizes amounting to star pagodas 100,000, 6,600 blanks, 10,000 tickets N.B. Not two Blanks to a prize and the lowest prize is equal to the price of two tickets.

In March 1791, a 'Native Inhabitants' Madras Lottery Fund' of 50,000 pagodas was held and the profits were devoted to the Male Asylum and for the relief of the poor, lame and blind natives of Madras.

In December 1791, another 50,000 pagodas lottery was held, the profits being devoted to 'the repair of such roads ....... as do not come under the care of the government'.

In 1795 and 1796, a reform and repair of Mount Road was undertaken. The profits of the annual lotteries were devoted to this project, Male Asylum and other works of public utility. A causeway across the river situated at the Commander-in-Chief's Bridge was one of these works.

In 1796 more than hundred Christian residents of Black Town represented the need for a church in the locality. One sixth of the expenditure on its construction was met by the Asylum Lottery.

In 1799, the Committee of the Asylum and Road Lotteries gave a statement of the Produce of the Asylum and Road Lotteries- for the period between August 1795 and November 1799 - seeking permission to continue with the operations. The statement reads as follows:

To amount paid for construction of causeway   	 2917
To amount paid for construction of bridge 
	near the burying ground 		 2806
To amount paid for construction of a
	Protestant Church in Black Town		 1500
To amount paid towards the aid of the
	Mother Country 			  	 5000
To amount paid towards the Military Male
	Asylum 					 6000
To amount paid towards repairs of the roads
	in the vicinity of Madras from
		21st Sept'96 to 24th Nov. '99 	12170
To balance					 1209
Pagodas						31602

Between 1795 and 1805 fourteen lacs of pagodas had been raised, thirteen lacs given in prizes, and one lac distributed as follows :

All figures in are Pagodas 
Roads 						56,393 
Bridges 					16,236 
Male Asylum 	 		 	 	 6,500  
Female Asylum			 		 2,500 
Native Hospital established 	 	
	by Asst. Surg. John Underwood in 1796	 3,500 
The Black Town Chapel 				 1,750
Donations in aid of the mother country   	 5,450
Expenses 					 7,650

In 1808 the Governor in Council resolved that henceforth 3/7ths of the proceeds should be devoted to charity instead of 1/7th as hitherto. The managers of the lottery thereupon submitted their sentiments on the best way of distributing that amount. They proposed three charities only:

Male Asylum				5-7ths 
Native Poor Fund			1-7ths 
Native Hospital  			1-7ths

and this recommendation was approved by the Government. In January 1815 another calculation was made as to grants from the lottery fund since January 1808.

All figures in are Pagodas 
Roads					1,11,676
Male and Female Asylums			  20,144 
Native Hospital 			   1,578
Native Poor Fund			     789
Native Infirmary			   8,126
Police Establishment			   7,885
The Cornwallis Cenotaph			   9,503
The Cornwallis Statue			   2,500
Marmelong Bridge			   1,930
The new Church (St. George's) 		  46,882

The total of these is two lacs and six thousand rupees. Of the total the Asylums received about 1/10th. In 1844 the lottery was abolished

From the diaries of Matthew Campbell, an Artillery Lieutenant, one learns about the bets he made with his friends at various points of time between 1823 and 1828. The reasons for the bets were simple ones like he would go back to England in five years, that a Lieutenant Pritchard will pass through Bangalore, etc. But in all these, the bet was a Lottery Ticket - indicating the prevalence and popularity of lotteries then. Lottery proceeds were used for the cause of charitable works. The Male Asylum Press where the diaries of Falconer and Campbell were printed was one of the beneficiaries.

Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, governor of Madras in the 1850s mentioned in one of his letters, the usefulness of state-run lotteries for financing public utilities. Thus, in Madras, lottery proceeds were used partially to construct the famous Moore Market (which was later destroyed by a fire mishap), the Victoria Public Hall, the Ripon Building and the Government Museum Theatre.