Why lotto win is a feel-bad story

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 October, 2009, 12:00am

In most countries, the news that someone, whether named or not, has won a huge lottery jackpot is a matter for celebration.

'Good on you,' people would cry, and champagne corks would pop in the streets of the winner's hometown - as they did in the Tuscan village of Bagnone in August when an unnamed 47-year-old resident won Europe's biggest lottery jackpot of Euro148 million (HK$1.6 billion).

Not so on the mainland, where cheating is common and the first instinct is to suspect collusion or corruption and demand to know the winner's identity. That was exactly the reaction to news last week that a punter in Anyang in the northern province of Henan , had won a record 360 million yuan (HK$409 million) against huge odds, having bought just one ticket. He won more than three times the previous record of 113 million yuan.

The semi-official China News Service suggested the winner may have colluded with the lottery centre. That the victor has still not gone to the province's Welfare Lottery Distribution Centre to claim his prize nine days after winning it has only fuelled media gossip about who and where he is.

State media reported yesterday that given previous lottery scandals, many people were questioning how someone could be so lucky as to net 88 of the lottery's 93 first-prize payouts with a ticket costing just 176 yuan. The ticket - which repeated the same combination of numbers 44 times, gambling at double odds - was for the popular double-colour lottery. This involves a draw of seven balls from numbered sets in two colours - 33 red and 16 blue.

Many people said they found it unbelievable that someone chose exactly the right numbers from 49 balls on a single ticket and even gambled at 44-time double odds.

In June, a computer engineer from the Shenzhen Welfare Lottery Centre was detained after he hacked into its computers and produced fake tickets. He was caught trying to claim the 33.05 million yuan prize three days after results were announced.

Members of the public have demanded to know more about the Henan winner. But lawyers and the province's lottery centre said the law gave higher priority to punters' privacy than to the public's right to know.

Professor Qiao Xinsheng, of the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, criticised the public for trying to force the Anyang punter into releasing his personal details. 'There's no law that requires a jackpot winner to publish his private information,' he was quoted as saying.

A law professor at Renmin University, Liu Junhai, was emphatic that a punter's personal information should be well protected and that he alone should decide whether or not to make public anything about himself. Still, he said other punters had the right to know because they had contributed to the jackpots.