Monday 21 June 2021

Costa Rica Lottery Players Spend ¢70 Billion A Year In Illegal Games

JPS (legal lottery) being sold on the streets of San José. Photo: Graciela Solís, La Nacion
JPS (legal lottery) being sold on the streets of San José. Photo: Graciela Solís, La Nacion

QCOSTARICA – Illegal or underground lotteries snatch each year some ¢70 billion colones from the Junta de Protección Social (JPS), the state agency that has a monopoly on the lottery in the country, according to a recent study paid by the JPS.

According to lottery CEO, Milton Vargas Mora, this means less funds reaching social welfare projects financed by the JPS to the 419 organizations throughout the country, that includes nursing homes, senions centres and public hospitals.

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The total lottery market in Costa Rica is estimated at ¢257 billion colones (US$500 million dollars) annually, this includes the clandestine lotteries. Bings and casino games are excluded.

This year, the JPS says it has distributed some ¢24 billion colones in different social programs. For example: ¢5.9 billion to nursing homes; ¢1.8 billion to day care centres for seniors; ¢1.345 billion for assistance to abandoned children; ¢2.8 billion for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), and ¢269 million for the Centro Penitenciario de Psiquiatría (Prison Psychiatry).

The JPS study reveals that the illegal lotteries take in proceeds equivalent to 27.62% of the “luck market”.

Competing (illegally) with the JPS are the Panamanian lottery that is commonly sold in the province of Limón, given the province’s border with Panama, a border that is for the most part uncontrolled.

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If you dig deep enough, you can find lotteries from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, given a large number of nationals from those countries calling Costa Rica home.

In addition, there are “numbers” game being played in many corners of the country; not simple pools by a group of friends or employees, but organized games focusing mainly on blue collar workers. These games can be found in places like the Mercado Central in downtown San José, as well as downtown bars and parks. In areas like Desamparados, Alajuelita and Calle Blancos, typically working class neighbourhoods, illegal lotteries are easy to be found.

Vendors of the state (legal) lotteries told La Nacion that they have noticed declines in sales in recent years. Marco Zumbado, a JPS lottery vendor for the past 15 years, said in the last few years he has not been able to sell 100% of each lottery draw. “Before I would sell out everything before the Sunday draw,” said Zumbado. The JPS typically holds lottery draws every Sunday.

Source: With files and photos from

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