Police syndicate cops a Mark Six snowball

TWELVE police officers won $38 million - the maximum allowed - in the Dragon Boat Festival snowball draw of the Mark Six lottery.

Each of the officers in the Operations Wing, ranking from constable to assistant commissioner, takes $3,166,000 of the jackpot.

The highest-ranking is Assistant Commissioner Dick Lee Ming-kwai, brother-in-law of Commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on.

All have apparently pledged to remain in the force.

The win appeared to be a case of beginner's luck, and one with a twist of irony. Not only was the syndicate not a regular operation, but its members also seemingly forgot to ask their commander, Senior Assistant Commissioner Toby Emmet, to toss in $50 for the kitty.

Gossipers reported the following exchange over Mr Emmet's phone in the morning.

'Sir, we've got good news and bad news. Good news is that the reports of our win are true,' one of the officers allegedly quipped. 'Bad news is it looks like you're going to have to put up with us for a while longer. We're not leaving.' It is claimed the group did seek out another syndicate member, a chief inspector who reportedly declined.

The officers placed the bets at the Jockey Club's branch in Jaffe Road, Wan Chai - punting on a stack of 30 'quick-pick' tickets which gave them 120 computer-generated combinations of numbers.

The odds of winning first prize are 8,145,060 to one. The previous highest dividend after the $38 million first prize cap was imposed came last September - $32,665,696. Before that, $57,415,588 was paid out in February 1992.

Despite the huge cash lure of the Dragon Boat Snowball, the territory's punters were relatively reserved, perhaps because the cost per unit rose by $1 to $5 for Tuesday's draw.

Total investment stood at $106 million, way down on the $173 million forked out for a jackpot draw in January that snowballed from the Lunar New Year pick which returned no winners.

'This won't change me a bit,' said one of the winners.

'But, really, when you think about, in Hong Kong this is not really all that much money. We still consider ourselves to be very, very lucky.'