Lottery officials in the communist country of Laos are rigging the system, manipulating winning numbers in order to avoid large pay-outs, sources in the Southeast Asian nation say.
Drawings in the national lottery, which take place three times each week, often show numbers that vanish from purchased tickets or that are deemed unlucky and are unlikely to be chosen, sources say.
The winning number 509 on Oct. 14 this year appeared only as 5 on tickets sold throughout the day of the drawing after large numbers of Lao buyers sought to buy tickets including the “random number” 09, a resident of the capital Vientiane told RFA’s Lao Service.
“This number is associated in Laos with the buffalo, a symbol of good fortune, and many people wanted to pick this number,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Machines would not accept it, though, saying that too many of the number had already been sold.”
Access to the number, which was unavailable throughout the day, was mysteriously restored only an hour before the scheduled drawing, the source added.
In a similar case on Oct. 10, Lao radio announced the winning number of that day’s drawing as 134, changing the number only 10 minutes later to 662, the source said.
“And last year , the winning numbers for three consecutive drawings at the end of September were 367, 267, and 567,” the source said, adding that the number 67 is commonly associated with the turtle, an animal believed in Laos to bring bad luck.
“The Lao people will not pick this number. And even if they use it and win, they won’t keep the money, but will give it away to a charity foundation or a temple.”
“How is it possible that the number 67 would appear like this three times in a row?” he asked.
Speaking to RFA, Sommaly Thammavong—daughter-in-law of former prime minister Thongsing Thammavong and a co-owner in the lottery management group run by Thai-based business firm Insee Trading Co.—denied the lottery is rigged.
“The drawing uses random numbers and is completely transparent, and there are no problems with the system at all,” Sommaly told RFA.
A Lao state official speaking on condition of anonymity meanwhile said that Lao business interests with a stake in the lottery’s work include other persons with connections to the country’s ruling elite.
“The majority of the companies responsible for the lottery include people from the families of national leaders, including former prime minister Thongsing and former president Khamtay Siphandone,” he said.
The public is not told how much these business interests pay to the Lao government for the annual cost of the concession, and no one inspects it, he said.
“Hopefully, the government will resume control of the national lottery, because it should be 100 percent managed by them,” a caller from Laos told RFA.
“Private business interests should not be allowed to be responsible for the national lottery, because the drawings can’t be trusted,” he added.
Reported and translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh for RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.