Vietnam lottery companies profit despite profligacy

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Staff at the Ho Chi Minh City Lottery Company observe a weekly drawing. Photo by Quang Thuan

State-owned lottery companies waste thousands of dollars printing tickets that are not sold, but the upside is there is less chance of a ticket that has been sold winning prizes.

A change in regulation in 2005 saw the lottery market become competitive, with the 64 companies, each representing a city or province, being allowed to sell everywhere in the country.

But this has failed to translate into bigger sales.

Each company prints two million tickets for its weekly drawing, which includes two first prizes, but only manages to sell 20-40 percent.

Quang Ngai Company said it prints tickets for selling in all 14 provinces in the central region, but has only managed to sell 26-31 percent of them in the last three years.

Tran Phung, director of the company, said printing the unsold tickets adds up to a loss of VND2.8 billion (US$133,800) a year.

Nguyen Hoang Hai, general secretary of Vietnam Association of Financial Investors, estimates millions of dollars go down the drain every year in this manner.

Lottery companies, which have to run offices countrywide at huge cost, are as anxious about the results as any buyer.

They said they would incur big losses if a first prize-winning ticket is sold. The first prize is VND1.5 billion ($71,670).

But since the chance is not too high considering the number of tickets they print, the lottery companies usually make profits.

Each company gets VND10 billion ($477,814) a week to pay the prizes, and is allowed to keep the amount not paid to winners.

Ninh Thuan Company sells around 30 percent of its tickets on average, but reported a profit of VND20 billion ($955,600) last year, and Gia Lai Company made around the same by selling 40 percent of its tickets.

Do Quang Vinh, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Lottery Company and chairman of the Southern Lottery Council, said: "I have never heard of any lottery company making losses."

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