Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 10 News List

TaipeiBank rushes to close new lottery loophole

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's lotto booth owners may have discovered a loophole that guarantees them a net profit of NT$20,000 on bets worth NT$500,000 on the new "Four-Star Lotto (四星彩)."

The local Chinese-language media yesterday reported that some of the nation's lotto booth owners might have bought each of Four-Star's 10,000 four-number sets, ranging from 0000 to 9999, to secure the jackpot of NT$250,000 as well as other smaller prizes worth NT$230,000, for a total payback of NT$480,000.

Since booth owners earn an 8 percent commission on ticket sales, worth NT$40,000, booth owners can make a profit of NT$20,000 on each draw, the reports said.

But the lotto's issuer, TaipeiBank (台北銀行), yesterday insisted that the seemingly clever gambling trick was more risky than it seemed.

"The betting twist is theoretically possible, but technically very difficult," the bank's vice president Richard Yang (楊瑞東) said yesterday before holding a press conference to announce its contingency measures.

Yang said that it was not easy for booth owners to buy all the numbers since only 1,000 tickets are sold for each number. Buying all 10,000 numbers also takes four hours to process.

But Yang admitted that the bank had detected irregular buying activities at more than 260 of the nation's over 6,000 lotto booths. He said at least 4 million tickets had been sold before last night's draw.

"There's nothing the bank can do to prevent booth owners from speculating on the gambling tricks since it's not illegal," Yang said.

Yang said the bank was not aware of anyone succeeding with this ploy.

In order to ensure a fair game, Yang said that the bank will randomly reduce 345 tickets available for some numbers from a maximum of 1,000 tickets to as few as 100 tickets in each draw, which would make if more difficult for people to buy a ticket for each number.

"The stakes will be higher for booth owners to do that," Yang said.

The gambling tricks, however, are not too well known among booth owners.

Two Taipei-based booth owners interviewed by the Taipei Times said they only learnt about the tricks from newspapers yesterday.

A booth owner surnamed Liao said that he was puzzled whether a total of NT$480,000 in prizes could be secured from the NT$500,000 investment.

"I don't get it," Liao said, gazing at his computerized lottery screen. "It's not worth it since the tricks seem to secure only a NT$250,00 jackpot."

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