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Beijing launches nationwide lottery to support welfare

The Straits Times, 3 September 2000

BEIJING -- The Chinese communist government bans casinos, betting on horse racing and other forms of gambling. But it has made an exception with lotteries, seeing them as a tool for financing China's growing social-welfare needs.

The world's most populous country is short of funds for a national welfare system that it hopes to complete next year amid huge layoffs and an ageing population.

Last year, 600,000 elderly and 700,000 laid-off workers did not receive pension or welfare payments owing to the lack of funds.

The new nationwide lottery, which was launched on Friday, looked set to be an instant hit.

Mr Ha Jun, first in line at a Beijing branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank that began selling tickets at 9 am, bought 1,100 yuan (S$209) worth, more than what many Chinese earn in a month, the Beijing Evening News reported.

Besides banks, tickets were also sold in shops and at street outlets, according to the Beijing Morning Post.

Lottery draws begin on Oct 6 and will be held once a week through year's end, according to newspapers.

Tickets, two yuan apiece, are good for all 15 drawings. The top prize is 1 million yuan, a fortune in China where the average urban resident earns 5,500 yuan a year, even less in the countryside.

The chances of winning a prize were about one in six, the Morning Post said. --AP