Mon, Feb 12, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Extra cash for New Year lotto draws

UPHILL BATTLE With its first stakes-rising move since taking over the management of the nation's lottery, the firm hopes to turn the page on its recent misfortunes

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chang Ruu-tian, president of Taiwan Lottery Co, holds scratch-off lottery tickets during a press conference last Friday to announce the firm's new campaign to boost business during the Lunar New Year holiday.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TAIWAN LOTTERY CO

Buying lottery tickets during the Lunar New Year holiday, an enduring tradition in Chinese societies, is considered an auspicious means to try one's luck.

Responding to lotto players' expectations and in a bid to boost sales, Taiwan Lottery Co (台灣彩券公司), the nation's exclusive Public Welfare Lottery operator, announced on Friday it will raise the stakes on two issues of the "Big Lotto" (大樂透) starting on Wednesday.

"The Lunar New Year holiday is usually the peak period for lotto ticket sales," Taiwan Lottery president Chang Ruu-tian (張汝恬) said in an interview last week.

The firm will add NT$100 million (US$3 million) to each of the first prizes in the computerized Big Lotto, with drawings scheduled on Friday and Feb. 20.

In the event that no one wins the jackpot in either issue, the extra sum will be rolled over to the next draw, until the first prize is won, the firm said.

For its nearly 5,000 computerized lotto vendors nationwide, Taiwan Lottery's first stakes-raising campaign since it commenced business on Jan. 1 is a strategy to boost unstable sales.

Despite the promising sales figures expected for the next two weeks, however, distributors remain apprehensive that their computer systems will crash -- a frequent occurrence since the new system was launched.

Since taking over the exclusive management of the lottery from its predecessor Taipei Fubon Bank (台北富邦銀行), Taiwan Lottery Co, a subsidiary of Chinatrust Financial Holding Co (中信金控), has been under tremendous pressure from the Ministry of Finance, lotto vendors and the media.

Vendors have complained that the computer system was not stable, the software lacked important functions, the supply of lottery tickets was insufficient and the printing time of lotto tickets took longer than it did in the past.

Public expectations that Taiwan Lottery would be up to speed within a few days stemmed from Taipei Fubon Bank's record during the previous five years, which many believed should have shortened the learning curve for the new vendor.

Despite the triviality -- though high frequency -- of issuing flaws, the problems prompted the finance ministry to make strongly worded statements, threatening that absent corrective measures within a month, it could revoke the firm's issuing rights.

One week after launching operations, the lotto union warned it planned to seek compensation from Taiwan Lottery as constant blunders were weakening consumers' confidence and hurting their business.

Now the crisis seems to have passed.

"We admit there are still some aspects we need to improve and it will take time for the system to operate smoothly. But since Jan. 12, the computer system has begun to stabilize," Chang said.

Chang, who took the helm at the new lotto issuing entity after chairman Deng Yan-dun (鄧彥敦) was detained last October over financial scandals, has made a number of TV appearances over the past month as she tried to put out fires that might have burned down the credibility of the lottery business as well as that of the company itself.

Despite her lack of experience in the lotto business, Chang was confident that her powers and optimism would drive her to persevere and solve the problems.

Still, she shed tears during an interview with the Taipei Times after mentioning how hard her whole team had worked to smooth out the various problems.

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