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Lottery Sellers Must Stay Away from Schools
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Chinese students will find it much more difficult to gamble away their pocket money or lunch allowances after it was announced that legal lottery sellers have to keep their distance from schools.


To keep temptation at bay small Chinese lottery kiosks must be at least 200 meters from schools and bigger kiosks 600 meters away. And illegal vendors, typically food or stationery stores which are near school gates, face a crackdown.


Minors are not allowed to buy lotteries but currently the ban is loosely enforced. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to the allure of lotteries and betting may reinforce the notion that speculation is a shortcut to instant riches, said a notice jointly issued by six ministries and published on the website of the Ministry of Finance.


The rising popularity of lottery games among students has been causing significant public concern. The media in Guangdong, Henan, Shanxi and Jiangxi provinces have reported that students are being lured to spend their lunch money on illegal lotteries. Each ticket costs less than 1 yuan (13 US cents) and the prize is up to about 200 yuan (US$25.6) or even toys and candy, according to the reports.


A man named Xin Jianmin in the city of Datong in Shanxi told local media last week that his 8-year-old son seemed very hungry at dinner in the previous weeks. He discovered the boy spent his breakfast and lunch allowance on illegal lotteries near his school and clearly didn't win.


The notice urged local police and business administration bureaus to be alert to such illegal practices saying children and social order could be harmed. Illegal vendors will face severe punishment and be subject to criminal charges, it said.


Miao Furui, director of the lottery committee of the China Association of Social Workers, an organization affiliated to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said the notice would help regulate the lottery market. "Before a law on lotteries is enacted the notice serves as a market guideline," he said. "Although previous regulations state that no lottery can be sold to teenagers they spelt out no details."


But Miao admitted that lottery sellers would find it difficult to tell the age of buyers as the regulation doesn't grant them the right to check identity cards. The notice also doesn't make it clear if teenagers are allowed to buy lotteries in the company of their parents, he said.


Lottery ticket sales are one of the major sources of fund-raising for sports facilities and social welfare programs in China. Last year sales of lottery tickets reached 65.6 billion yuan (US$ 8.4 billion) of which the Welfare Lottery had a turnover of 41 billion yuan (US$5.2 billion) raising 14.3 billion yuan (US$1.8 billion) for the State's social welfare fund, according to Xinhua News Agency.


(China Daily December 19, 2006)

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