LOTTO: PART OF NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS

The World Lottery Association, a U.N.-affiliated body, will carry an article documenting Taiwan’s young computer lottery history and its special lottery culture in its 2003 publication, a TaipeiBank executive said yesterday.

Richard Yang, vice president and general manager of TaipeiBank’s lottery department, said as Taiwan is not a U.N. member, it has been denied entry to the WLA.

As Taiwan’s computer lottery ticket sales are now the world’s 10th largest since the lottery began 13 months ago, Yang said this amazing record has attracted WLA interest. “WLA authorities have decided to include Taiwan’s 2002 lottery trading data and relevant developments in their official publication this year,” he added.

The WLA convenes two meetings a year to allow its members to exchange views and experiences in lottery gaming management, marketing and advertisement, Yang said.

“We cannot attend those conferences, but our unique experience in lottery management is worthy of study,” Yang said proudly.

In his view, Yang said, Taiwan’s young lottery history has three special features. First of all, Taiwan is the world’s second country after Spain to allow the underprivileged to sell lottery tickets.

Yang said Spain only allows blind people to sell traditional lottery tickets, while Taiwan allows underprivileged people to sell even computerized tickets.

“At the beginning, many people wonder whether Taiwan’s bold practice could succeed as the underprivileged are usually less educated and have little business experience. Despite these concerns, we have made it. Our successful experience has prompted China and South Korea to send people to Taiwan to study our arrangement,” Yang said.

Second, Yang said, Taiwan has had no problem with vendors and repayments of deposits that are required to sell lottery tickets.

“TaipeiBank requires each sales agent to deposit NT$100,000 as a down payment. At first, some British and American advisers wondered whether underprivileged sales agents could afford to make such a large down payment. In fact, we allow them to deposit NT$20,000 initially and pay the remainder in installments. This formula has so far gone smoothly. No vendor has had any problems paying off their debt.” Yang explained.

Third, Yang said, lottery ticket sales are mostly handled by governments in most countries. TaipeiBank and Japan’s Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank are the world’s few commercial banks that are authorized to handle lottery ticket sales, he said.

Learning from Taiwan’s experience, Yang said, South Korea began to authorize its National Bank to issue computerized lottery tickets this year. According to Yang, the National Bank collects a 9.5 percent service charge and its computer system operator collects an additional 4.5 percent.

In comparison, he said, TaipeiBank only levies a 4.3 percent service charge. “We don’t rely on service charges to make money. We instead use the huge cash income from lottery ticket sales to buoy our daily business operations. This is one of the bonanzas to commission banks to operate lotteries,” Yang explained.

Since the inauguration of the computerized public-interest lottery, Taiwan has produced hundreds of jackpot winners. But none of them have ever voluntarily come forward to share their joy with the public.

“With only a few exceptions, most countries withhold identities of jackpot winners for various reasons, including protecting winners from falling prey to criminal rings or from inviting relatives to borrow money and charity groups to court donations,” Yang said.

He said lottery issuers have never relied on publicizing the identities of winners to build up their credibility. “In the lottery’s long history around the world, he said, there has been no single case of fraud involving issuers due to stringent regulations imposed by government authorities.

Yang said winners in Taiwan have to pay 20 percent tax and that TaipeiBank has deposits of NT$550 million in guaranty with the Ministry of Finance. “If we have irregularities in ticket operations, the government will impound our money,” he added.