Outrage at organisers' tampering with lottery

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 12:00am

Their attempt at 'damage limitation' to cover up a camera problem backfires

Organisers of the national lottery are being fiercely criticised for tampering with the broadcast of the Two Colour Balls draw earlier this month.

On February 5, when the draw was taking place in a Beijing studio, one of the two cameras that was supposed to be filming the event failed. The camera showing the wide shot worked, but the one that zoomed in on the balls to show the winning numbers did not.

Organisers filmed a fake draw for broadcast on satellite television later that evening in the hope it would go unnoticed. But they had no such luck.

The Two Colour Balls lottery is one of the more popular lotteries and the twice-weekly draw, broadcast 11/2 hours after the event, is watched by millions of people throughout the country.

On that night, viewers could easily see that while the wide-shot footage of the draw seemed genuine, the close-up shots were staged.

Complaints from outraged ticket holders poured onto the internet, with thousands of people accusing the organisers of cheating.

'I will never buy a ticket again,' said one angry commentator on portal Sina.com, while another asked: 'Who will now monitor the monitors?'

The winning ticket for the controversial lottery was sold at a stall in Shanghai.

The winner, who has not yet come forward, will collect a jackpot of 5 million yuan.

The Two Colour Balls lottery is sold in 29 provinces and municipalities. Each ticket costs two yuan.

In Beijing alone the lottery earns an average of 12 million yuan each week.

One week after the botched attempt to fix the broadcast, officials from the national lottery admitted their mistake and issued a public apology. They insist no one was cheated.

He Yi, director of information at the lottery's management centre, swore there had been no attempt to cheat.

'The process by which the numbers were chosen was valid,' he said. 'We are absolutely not cheating lottery fans.'

Mr He said the draw was monitored by officials from the Beijing Public Notary Office in addition to being filmed by two cameras.

The results of the draw are announced when footage from these two cameras is broadcast on television.

'By the time we realised the close-up camera was not functioning properly the draw had already begun and could not be stopped. So we did some damage-limitation work in the hope of satisfying the audience,' Mr He said.

The notary office has confirmed the six winning numbers from the February 5 draw and a clarification has been posted on its website.

The Minister of Civil Affairs, Li Xueju, has promised that the case will be investigated.