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Bad Japanese Economy Breeds New Type of Lottery Fan

31 December 2001

JAPAN – Dec. 31, 2001 –As reported by the Japan Times: "Public-run lotteries -- which some pundits caution against as a form of gambling that increasingly draws money from the pockets of the relatively poor -- continue to be popular amid the prolonged economic slump.

"The yearend Jumbo of 2000 rang up 234.5 billion yen in sales, the largest in five years, according to the bond office in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's finance bureau, which tallies the nationwide total. Takara-kuji sales for the whole year came in at more than 1 trillion yen, a record, according to Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, which administers the lottery.

"This is despite -- or because of -- tightening purse strings, and comes as a bit of good news for cash-strapped municipalities, who get 40 percent of the proceeds from lottery tickets to spend on public works. They smile even more fondly on the lottery's grinning whale mascot, since the public has been abandoning other forms of publicly-run gambling.

"According to the Japan Leisure Association, household spending on racetracks, speedboat racing and cycling courses fell 6.1 percent, while spending on lottery tickets rose 4.2 percent from the previous year, the third straight year of growth.

"…In times of trouble, Japanese officials have traditionally been quick to look to lotteries to raise extra cash.

"…But some question whether publicly-run lotteries are a fair and healthy way of allocating wealth.

"`The new ticket buyers are poorer. They are willing to pay for something to hope for,; says Ichiro Tanioka, president of the Osaka University of Commerce.

"…Currently, publicly-run lotteries include Numbers games, Miniloto and Loto 6, where ticket buyers choose the numbers they hope will win. There is no limit to the number of tickets sold in these lotteries. Meanwhile, the number of Jumbo lotteries has grown from four to five times a year.

"…The number of people who bought lottery tickets rose 6.4 percent from the previous year to 513.9 million yen, according to the August survey. But as corporate bankruptcies continue to grow at a feverish pitch and unemployment reaches record levels, 60.5 percent said they were playing for the prize money.

"That was up from the 29.2 percent who played for the prize money in 1976, when the top reason was `pleasure.' In the previous survey, in 1998, 55.5 percent said they were playing for the money…"

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