China’s biggest jackpot win shrouded in mystery


Zhengzhou (China) : Public sentiments took a dramatic turn in China two weeks after lottery officials announced the country’s biggest ever jackpot win worth more than $52 million, Xinhua reported.

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First came shock and envy, then speculation on the identity of the prizewinner, and finally, suspicion over the credibility of the lottery industry.

The winning ticket, bought in China’s Anyang city in central Henan province, has been shrouded in mystery and suspicion ever since it was announced Oct 8.

The unidentified buyer is yet to claim the “dual-coloured ball” jackpot of the China Welfare Lottery.

Reporters from across the country have swarmed into the small outlet in Yindu district of the city, where the winning ticket was sold, to dig up details of the winner.

“I vaguely remember. A man in his 30s or 40s bought that ticket,” recalled the vendor, Chen Guixia. “The player is not a regular customer in my shop. I can’t remember exactly how he looked and dressed,” she said.

Before selling the jackpot ticket, Chen had sold the second prizes of the Welfare Lottery twice since she started her business in 2001.

However, the media and the local community have given different descriptions on the winner’s identity, including a truck driver, a security guard and a storeowner of steel products.

According to the provincial Welfare Lottery centre, the buyer bought the ticket Oct 8 at a cost of 176 yuan ($25.8). The ticket’s total number of top prize stakes came to 88.

The dual-coloured ball lottery consists of six red ball numbers from 1 to 33 and one blue ball number from 1 to 16. A maximum of five bets can be printed on one ticket and players can spread the bet over multiple draws using the same set of numbers.

The jackpot numbers drawn that evening were 5, 12, 16, 25, 26, 27 and 31, Xinhua reported.

The winner must pay 20 percent of the win in a personal windfall income tax, or about 72 million yuan ($10.5 million).

People have alleged that the draw has been manipulated. They cited a report Sep 21 on showing how to win a jackpot of 300 million yuan by playing in an identical way.

The report has fuelled suspicions of fraud as the IP address of the anonymous person who posted the report was also from Henan province.

The Welfare Lottery’s dual-coloured ball is drawn three times a week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Another website report said the lottery agency might have used a super computer to analyse sales data and pre-taped several versions of each high-jackpot draw before deciding which set to broadcast. The lottery officials, however, have not commented on the allegation.

The Welfare Lottery has sold tickets worth 325.4 billion yuan ($47.7 billion) since its first draw in 1987. In 2008 alone, tickets worth 60.4 billion yuan ($8.88 billion) were sold.

The civil affairs ministry, which monitors lottery sales in the country, said it raised 110 billion yuan ($16.1 billion) for public projects through Welfare Lottery in the last two decades.

More than a third of the money collected through lotteries in China is allocated for public welfare projects, including sports, education and healthcare sectors.

Lottery frauds and scandals are common in China.

In June, a software engineer broke into the database of the Welfare Lottery centre in Shenzhen and changed the entries for five winning tickets. Those tickets were among nine that won the top prize in the “dual-coloured ball” lottery June 9.

The accused could not create the actual tickets with the numbers and eventually failed to collect the money. He was later arrested.