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One mystery punter wins record Philippine lottery

MANILA, November 30, 2010 (AFP) – A mystery punter in the impoverished Philippines has become an instant multi-millionaire after winning the country’s biggest-ever lottery jackpot, organisers said Tuesday.

The lucky gambler will collect 741.176 million pesos (16.73 million dollars) after his numbers came up in Monday’s Philippine Charity Sweepstakes draw.

The winner, who has yet to claim his prize and is likely to remain anonymous, beat odds of one in nearly 29 million to guess the right combination of six numbers between one and 55, the lottery organisers said.

In a country where one in three people live on a dollar a day, the lottery created a frenzy as the jackpot slowly built from mid-May – there had been no winners in 86 consecutive draws.

“The number of bettors grew as the pot increased,” said Manny Arazas, an accountant at the Bataan-Zambales lottery office northwest of Manila, who told AFP he heard the winner had come from his area.

“And they began betting on up to five number combinations at a time, instead of just one.”

President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, one of the losing bettors, said anecdotal evidence suggested the lotto buzz had curbed a wildly popular illegal numbers game called “jueteng”, at least temporarily.

“If it’s true, then it would really be a strike against jueteng,” Lacierda told reporters.

Aquino had allowed his cabinet members to bet, he added.

The influential Roman Catholic church, which frowns on gambling, ironically has kept mum over the lottery – it too is expected to get a windfall because the sweeptakes office is among its biggest charitable donors.

Thirty percent of state lottery sales goes to a fund that the government uses to finance health programmes and select charities, including the church.

Meanwhile, the identity of Monday’s winner is likely to remain a mystery for some time.

As a security measure, the lottery does not reveal the winner’s name unless it has the person’s consent. The winner has the option to deposit the winnings at a bank located inside the lottery’s central Manila office.

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