Yearly sales of China Welfare Lottery tickets hit 60.3 billion yuan (8.15 billion U.S. dollars) as of Friday, up 29 percent year-on-year, the country's lottery watchdog said on Sunday.
The sales have raised nearly 20.7 billion yuan for the country's public welfare, said a China Welfare Lottery Management Center spokesman.
Half the money has been turned over to central government coffers. The remainder was used for social welfare purposes, mainly for the social security fund to cover its deficit.
As China's first lottery launched in June 1987, sales of the tickets represented 63 percent of the country's entire lottery market.
Lottery sales were one of the major sources of fund raising for sports facilities and the country's social welfare programs. Despite this, gambling was illegal in China.
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Welfare Lottery had raised a total of 242.3 billion yuan over the past two decades, of which 80.9 billion yuan was given to the national public welfare fund.
It said the fund was mainly used for the development of social welfare facilities, education and health care for orphans, the elderly and the disabled. More than 10 million people have benefited from the fund, according to the ministry.
(Xinhua News Agency December 24, 2007)