Lotto crazy country

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

It would have been just like any other ordinary day of lotto draws of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) held last Feb. 27. But one of the PCSO lotto machines failed to capture one of the winning balls that draw day. Unfortunately, it conked out and was witnessed by viewers watching the live nationwide telecast over government-owned PTV-4 network.

So the PCSO had no choice but to confirm the incident. However, the state-run PCSO called it as a “minor glitch” that occurred during its three-digit game draw. A top prize of P4,500 for each winning ticket was up for grabs.

PCSO general manager Mel Robles sought to assuage the public that their technical team immediately responded and fixed the problem. Robles explained the PCSO used instead a standby machine. In an official statement, Robles clarified they approved this remedial procedure based on the ISO 9001-2018 protocol being strictly followed by the state-run lotto agency. “It’s not the first time that this happened,” Robles pointed out.

Robles recalled the PCSO also previously experienced a glitch in one of its draws in 2008. Such glitches do not only happen here in our country’s lotto draws, Robles argued, but also occur even in other countries using more advanced lottery machines.

In short, all the PCSO chief was saying was that this “minor glitch” was not something to make a big issue at all.

Thus, it was not surprising that Senator Raffy Tulfo was hopping mad at the way the PCSO chief dismissed nonchalantly this incident. The neophyte senator did not wait for anyone to complain to him in his public affairs TV program “Isumbong mo kay Tulfo” before acting on it. In his usual braggadocio manner, Sen. Tulfo has vowed to investigate a glitch-marred “Swertres Lotto” three-digit game draw.

What got the goat of Sen. Tulfo was the fact this livestream of the PCSO draw was abruptly cut off the air. Obviously, the PCSO tried to replace the malfunctioning machine off-camera. A veteran broadcaster before he turned to politics, Sen. Tulfo rightly pointed out this put to question the integrity of the lotto draw. Worse, the PCSO initially denied that the glitch. The PCSO pointed to the “unexpected” incident lotto glitch due to a machine malfunction last happened to them in 2008.

Tulfo noted the incident does not bode well for PCSO as it faces a Senate inquiry that he will lead on the digital e-Lotto pilot project and the increasing frequency of bettors guessing the winning combinations.

“We will conduct a hearing to investigate the glitch. The public needs to know whether or not this is really a glitch or another suspicious action by the PCSO,” Tulfo pointed out. “It is bad timing for PCSO for this to happen when our investigation on its e-Lotto system was not yet concluded,” he added.

For those who can’t afford a P20 bet, the PCSO came up with these “mini-lotto” games such as the “Swertres Lotto” at P10 a bet.

There are three other “mini-lotto” games of the PCSO drawn three times a day. The two-digit and “Swertres” lotto games are drawn and aired daily at the same time every two o’clock and five o’clock in the afternoon, and last draw is every nine o’clock in the evening. The two-digit lotto offers P4,000 jackpot.

On top of these “mini-lotto” games, PCSO also offers four-digit and six-digit lotto games. The four-digit lotto – drawn every Monday-Wednesday-Friday – offers a much higher jackpot prize of a minimum P10,000. Of these “mini-lotto” games of the PCSO, the six-digit lotto – drawn every Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday – offers the biggest pot of P150,000.

But Sen. Tulfo is focused first on leading the probe before the Senate games and amusement committee on the PCSO’s augmented jackpot prizes for the Lotto 6/42, Mega Lotto 6/45, Super Lotto 6/49, Grand Lotto 6/55, and Ultra Lotto 6/58 from Dec. 29 to Jan. 17. It was referred to the Senate committee following a resolution filed earlier by Senator Imee Marcos who asked her Senate colleagues to investigate the “extremely rare outcome” of the 6/55 grand lotto draw in Oct. 2022.

On that fateful day, 433 bettors won after wagering on the same winning combination divisible by nine, making them share the P236-million jackpot. Well and good if indeed the entire lotto jackpot was equally divided among the 433 lotto bettors. At a glance, the winning bettors came from various parts of the Philippines. It would be highly suspicious if the winning bettors came from one clustered area of the country.

This brought to mind when then president Benigno Simeon “PNoy” Aquino III during his first year in office at Malacañang Palace questioned how come the PCSO lotto jackpot winners mostly come from Metro Manila. PNoy noted there was hardly any lotto jackpot winner from the Visayas or from Mindanao. Lotto outlets or betting stations are operated online. Thus, these lotto outlets were largely concentrated in the urban centers like Metro Manila, obviously due to connectivity issues.

Fast forward. Other than these “mini-lotto” draws, there are five big-time lotto games being operated by the PCSO practically 24/7 as these are spread out on scheduled draw days.

The original regular PCSO “Lotto 6/42” is drawn every Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. Now, the PCSO also runs the “Mega Lotto 6/45” which is drawn Monday-Wednesday-Friday. There is also the “Super Lotto 6/49” that is drawn every Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday. And there is that “Grand Lotto 6/55” drawn every Monday-Wednesday-Saturday. The biggest of them is called the “Ultra lotto 6/58” drawn every Tuesday-Friday-Sunday. All of them are aired live every nine o’clock in the evening over state-run PTV-4.

But for an impoverished country like ours, trying our luck in PCSO lotto draws have become a way of life to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty. For many indigent families, they even scrimp their meager income to spare P20 for one bet to buy their dream of becoming a “millionaire.”

There’s nothing wrong if we have “get-rich-quick” dreams to win lotto’s millions of pesos jackpot. That’s human nature.

But making Filipinos lotto-crazy is not at all good for our country.

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