Turkey's luckiest lottery booth

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 October, 2012, 11:51am


It may be the luckiest lottery booth in the world. It's certainly one of the most popular. In the heart of Istanbul's historic Eminonu district, the Nimet Abla lottery kiosk is so renowned for producing winners it has become a magnet for punters.

People travel from well beyond the city limits to snap up a ticket. Others make proxy purchases, posting the slips to friends and relatives in other cities. Such is the kiosk's reputation that it sells 10 per cent of the lotto tickets in Turkey. Demand from all over the country as well as from abroad is so high that the firm started online sales last year.

Melek Nimet Ozden founded the kiosk, lending it both her name and her luck. Nimet Abla ("Big sister Nimet") started selling lottery tickets in 1928, and after she won the lottery in 1931 her shop earned nationwide fame.

The kiosk generates winners most weeks, though that now may be down to the sheer numbers of people who buy from it.

Ayhan Karagul has been working at the kiosk for six years and plays the lotto - so far without any luck. "Of course I am happy when our tickets win," he says. According to him, about 25 of the 32 monthly lottery draws generate at least a three-digit win for tickets bought at Nimet Abla, and almost every year since 1988 a share of the new year's jackpot goes to a ticket sold there. "It's statistics." Karagul says. "We sell so many tickets that there is always at least one that wins something."

Not everyone approves. Abdurrahman Yildiz, an ice-cream seller at a stand next door, does not condone his famous neighbour: "According to our religion, money has to be earned, not won."

Although the ministry for religious affairs reminds Muslims that gambling is considered sinful, ticket sales have increased by 14.3 per cent in 2011 compared with 2010, securing more than two billion lira (HK$8.6 billion) in revenue for the national lottery fund.

Religious conservatives bemoan the Turks' appetite for games of chance. But it is not all bad: in 10 years, profits from lotteries helped build 30 schools as well as student accommodation and rehabilitation centres all over the country.

Bekir Varol, 30, a private security guard in Istanbul, fills out a lottery ticket once a week, always at Nimet Abla. "I send tickets to my father every year, and every time he is angry, because he thinks gambling is a sin. If he wins, he would not accept the money." His wife nods. "I don't want my husband to gamble either, it's not right," she says. After a pause she adds: "But wouldn't it be great to win anyway?"

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