All of Hong Kong wins from the Mark Six draws

Since its introduction exactly 40 years ago tomorrow, tens of billions of dollars in proceeds have gone to the needy, giving hope and improving lives

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 February, 2016, 12:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 February, 2016, 12:10am

Whatever our views on gambling, the worth of the Mark Six lottery to Hong Kong cannot be denied. Since its introduction exactly 40 years ago tomorrow, tens of billions of dollars in proceeds have gone to the needy, giving hope and improving lives. Those who regularly take part in the thrice-weekly draws know how difficult it is to win a prize, big or small. But given the benefits to our city, we are all technically winners.

Mark Six evolved from government efforts to clamp down on an illegal Chinese game with a similar concept, che fa. But authorities did not have their eye on boosting revenue, as often happens elsewhere in the world with legal gambling; instead, they appointed the Hong Kong Jockey Club to operate the game and directed earnings to the Lotteries Fund, which is administered by the Social Welfare Department. In the subsequent four decades, about HK$57 billion has gone to more than 20,000 projects involving 300 beneficiary organisations. Among people helped have been the elderly, poor, needy families, young people and those seeking rehabilitation.

The first phase pilot scheme of the community service voucher for the elderly was launched with Mark Six revenue in 2013. After the Sars outbreak a decade earlier, funds went to employment assistance schemes to get the jobless back to work. Sales proceeds aided in the redevelopment of the former Siu Lam hospital in Tuen Mun to a rehabilitation centre.

Mark Six has created thousands of millionaires. With the odds of hitting the jackpot being one in 14 million, there have obviously been countless multiples more people who have chosen their “lucky” six numbers from a possible 49 and handed over their money for nothing. As much as many may have seen their effort as a waste, though, it has to also be viewed in the positive light of being a contribution to society. If it weren’t for their desire to take a chance, have a flutter or try their luck, those among us who are not so financially fortunate would find their circumstances less hopeful.