HONG KONG — China loves its national lottery, but now some very suspicious goings-on with the game has ignited a scandal that's capturing the country's attention.
As in most other places, the drawing for China's lottery — the only form of gambling the government allows outside of Macau — is televised nationally, conducted by the China Welfare Lottery Issuing and Management Center, an agency of the government.
But something appears to have gone wrong Sunday night, when the drawing for a 50-billion-yuan ($80 million) prize was suddenly canceled.
A short time later that evening, the lottery agency said that a technical glitch had prevented lottery sales data from reaching Beijing, and then soonafter announced on its official Weibo micro-blogging account that the drawing had been conducted off-air and was won by an unidentified "young immigrant worker in Guangzhou city."
While the Ministry of Civil Affairs issued an apology the next day for "the delay in the lottery drawing," the incident prompted immediate suspicion that the game was rigged. The fact that the details about the winner apparently came just moments after the winning numbers were announced made the affair all the more fishy.
A Beijing News report Tuesday said a man identified only by his surname Zhang had reported the case to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party's top inspector, calling for a thorough investigation.
Zhang said the lottery agency's explanation was "illogical and inconsistent," particularly the mention of a delay in sales data, as "the drawing should be independent of how many lottery tickets they have sold."
Zhang suggested that the real cause of the delay may have been that "someone outside their scheme had won the prize."
Discussion of the controversy was raging across news media and social media alike Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Beijing News report said — perhaps worryingly for the Chinese lottery-playing public — that the national welfare lottery had in fact seen a number of other delayed drawings over the past five years, with most of them unexplained.
Thanks to JADELottery for the tip.