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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 113-114

“Lockdown was a blessing in disguise for me as it stopped me gambling” – First person account of a lottery addict from god's own country (Kerala, India)

Department of Psychology, Rajagiri Centre of Behavioural Science and Research, Rajagiri College of Social Sciences (Autonomous), Kochi, Kerala, India

Date of Submission22-Jun-2020
Date of Decision23-Jul-2020
Date of Acceptance30-Jul-2020
Date of Web Publication31-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Sanju George
Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Rajagiri Centre of Behavioural Sciences and Research, Rajagiri College of Social Sciences (Autonomous), Rajagiri P. O., Kalamassery, Kochi - 683 104, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijsp.ijsp_172_20

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Keywords: Addiction, gambling, lockdown, lottery

How to cite this article:
George S, Fenn J, Chacko N. “Lockdown was a blessing in disguise for me as it stopped me gambling” – First person account of a lottery addict from god's own country (Kerala, India). Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2021;37:113-4

How to cite this URL:
George S, Fenn J, Chacko N. “Lockdown was a blessing in disguise for me as it stopped me gambling” – First person account of a lottery addict from god's own country (Kerala, India). Indian J Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Feb 1];37:113-4. Available from: https://www.indjsp.org/text.asp?2021/37/1/113/312862

  Introduction Top

COVID-19 virus sparked an on-going global pandemic, and the first case in India was detected on January 30, 2020, in the state of Kerala. To curb the spread of COVID-19, the Government of India announced a country-wide lockdown from March 24, 2020, to May 17, 2020, and his lockdown continues to varying degrees across parts of India. This lockdown was also imposed strictly in the state of Kerala, India's southern-most state, which has been referred to as God's own country because of its natural beauty.

Lockdown impacts the psychological well-being of most individuals, and the most common psychological reactions include stress, anxiety, depression, substance use, and exacerbation in preexisting mental health difficulties.[1] The Government of Kerala, which exclusively runs the sale of lotteries in the state, abruptly stopped its sale as part of the lockdown, and it resumed only after 2 months, when lockdown restrictions were partially lifted. There have been no reports of the impact of this lockdown on gambling by individuals.

Of the 29 states and 7 union territories in India, gambling (and that too only certain types and only in certain states) is only legal in some. The only legal forms of gambling in India are the lottery, horse racing, certain card games, and casinos.[2] Lotteries are legal in 12 states and 5 union territories and banned in the rest; horse racing is permitted in six states and casinos in two states. Lottery is the only legal form of gambling in Kerala, is run exclusively by the State Government, and is hugely popular.[3] Sale of lotteries is also a source of huge revenue to the state.[4]

  Case Report Top

Here, we present Mr. S, a lottery addict's story, partly in his own words. Mr. S is a 42-year-old high school teacher from Kerala. He is married with two adolescent children. He is on medication for hypertension but otherwise is physically fit. He has no previous history of any psychiatric illness and does not smoke, drink, or use any psychoactive substance.

He said, “I started buying lottery tickets at the age of 33. At first, it was only a weekend thing. On my way back from school, I used to buy a ticket and that too only once a week or so. It was my friend who introduced me to this. I won once or twice in the 1st year. Gradually, I started buying more often; it became 3–4 times a week. When I didn't win, I bought more tickets. In short, over the next 3 years, I became addicted to the lottery. That's all, I was interested in. I bought lottery tickets every day, for more than what I earned. I lied to my wife and built up a huge debt. Day and night, I dreamt of winning big, sadly I never did. I had no time for anyone or anything other than the lottery. That had become my life, the only thing I cared about.”

Mr. S came to see us in our clinic with complaints of irritability, restlessness, and low mood, 2 days after the commencement of lockdown and the shutdown of lottery sales in Kerala. He was struggling having no access to gamble (lottery tickets). He fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder as per the DSM 5 diagnostic criteria (seven out of the nine criteria). He exhibited “tolerance,” had previously tried to stop buying lottery tickets and became restless when he tried to do so, gambled to cope with his fluctuating mood, was preoccupied with gambling, and lied to his wife and family, and this had resulted in significant occupational dysfunction.

We started him on fluoxetine 20 mg daily and clonazepam 0.25 mg daily (which was stopped after 2 weeks). Over the past 10 weeks or so, we have offered him weekly cognitive behavior therapy (nine face-to-face sessions) and continued to work on other practical measures: limited access to money to gamble, change his routine, change his route back from school, have more activities to do with his children, daily yoga classes, and going out for daily walks with his wife in the evenings. He remains highly motivated to sustain his recovery from gambling addiction. Even after the sale of lotteries was re-started after the lockdown restrictions were eased, Mr. S has continued to stay off buying lottery tickets. He keeps his monthly follow-up reviews and remains well.

Mr. S – “I'm pleased that lockdown happened, it has given me my life back. I had time to think and realized I was gambling my life away. I hadn't seen how much I was addicted to buying lottery tickets. I couldn't have done it by myself. Maybe, I was lucky I don't gamble in any other way.”

  Discussion Top

We report how the lockdown helped a lottery addict use this period as a window of opportunity to escape his gambling addiction. There are wider lessons to be learned about how this approach might be utilized to treat other addictions, such as alcohol in India, given that alcohol is also sold in states mostly by the government and its sale too had to be stopped as part of the lockdown. Periods of enforced lockdown can be windows of opportunity to help people overcome their addictions, if appropriate help is on offer, and if those addicted and their families are aware of where, when, and how to seek such help.

Lockdown has resulted in various difficulties for most, but here is an example of one of its few positives, apart of course from its positive public health effects. This lottery addict had to stop gambling as this was the only form of gambling he ever engaged in. Mr. S has shown remarkable improvement, has developed good insight, and is highly motivated. This is evidenced by his continued abstinence from buying lottery tickets, even after the government has resumed sale of lotteries. Although this person has done well, with the resumption in lottery sales, many gamblers will struggle given its ample availability and easy accessibility. As this is only a case report, it comes with its inherent limitations. Plus, we did not use any structured tool for assessment.

Given the huge revenues lottery sales bring to the government and because it is a harmless past time for most, we are not calling for it to be banned. However, more needs to be done to raise awareness about its potential for harm and addiction and about sources of help.


The authors would like to thank Mr. S (anonymized) for his permission to publish his “story.”

Ethics statement

Written informed consent was obtained from this patient.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form, the patient has given his consent for his images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patient understands that his name and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stress and Coping. 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html. [Last accessed on 2020 Jul 23].  Back to cited text no. 1
George S, Velleman R, Nadkarni A. Gambling in India: Past, present and future. Asian J Psychiatr 2017;26:39-43.  Back to cited text no. 2
George S, Ts J, Nair S, Rani A, Menon P, Madhavan R, et al. A cross-sectional study of problem gambling and its correlates among college students in South India. BJPsych Open 2016;2:199-203.  Back to cited text no. 3
George S. An overview of gambling in Kerala. Kerala J Psychiatr 2017;30:2-30.  Back to cited text no. 4


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