National lotteries are big business in China, with jackpots occasionally increasing to astronomical levels. Just ask the Kunming man who recently walked away with a sizable fortune only to realize he had narrowly missed out on a one billion yuan bonanza.
The winner, who has only been identified in media reports as 'Mr Lottery', was in the middle of his daily routine when he realized his good fortune. On his way to work last week, Mr Lottery, as he does daily, stopped to purchase tickets at a China Sports Lottery (中国体育彩票) counter near his home. He checked his ticket from the day before and discovered six of the seven numbers matched the winning combination.
After checking with a worker at the gambling center, Mr Lottery figured out he had won 8.85 million yuan (US$1.44 million). He immediately set out to claim the prize at the lottery headquarters on Qianxing Lu. After a day-long verification process, Mr Lottery was presented with an oversized check by lottery officials at a public ceremony.
And that's when local media started in with the questions. It appears no one thought to ask what Mr Lottery planned to do with his newfound wealth, or at least publish his answers. Instead press queries focused almost entirely on how he felt missing out on a massive one billion yuan (US$163 million) jackpot by one number.
The newly minted millionaire apparently took the questions in stride and optimistically plans to continue playing the lottery, telling reporters:
Everyday I felt like I could become a billionaire, and yes, today I came up short one number and missed out on several hundred million yuan, but hopefully I can win the jackpot the next time around.
Although he did not win the grand prize, Mr Lottery is nearly nine million yuan richer and significantly more fortunate than the winner of a similar amount in 2013. Last year, the Sports Lottery sold a ticket worth five million yuan (US$816,000). Following a frantic search for the winner that included newspaper and radio pleas for the owner to come forward, a deadline passed and the money went unclaimed.
A study by Beijing Normal University estimated 200 million people in China regularly play the lottery. In 2012, mainland gamblers spent more than 250 billion yuan on China's two lotteries combined. That same year, people in Yunnan bought four billion yuan worth of Sports Lottery tickets.
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