China lottery sales rise as top official faces corruption rumors


china-welfare-lottery-li-liguo-scandalChina’s lottery sales surged in October as the sports lottery came ever closer to overtaking the traditionally dominant welfare lottery.

Figures released Tuesday by China’s Ministry of Finance showed overall lottery sales of RMB 33.8b (US $4.9b) in October, 8.3% higher than the same month last year. For the year-to-date, sales are up 6.7% to RMB 323.5b ($46.7b).

Sales of the traditionally more popular welfare lottery were up 6% in October to RMB 17.3b, while sports lottery sales rose nearly 11% to RMB 16.5b, despite the absence of a major international football tournament of the kind that traditionally causes sports lottery sales spikes.

Meanwhile, the apparent purge of two top officials was reportedly due to a massive fraud involving welfare lottery operations. Earlier this month, rumors spread that Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo (pictured) and deputy Dou Yupei had fallen from grace after neither individual was seen during the closing ceremonies of the Communist Party’s sixth plenary session in October.

The South China Morning Post quoted sources saying that both Li and Dou were ‘taken away by party disciplinary and supervisory personnel.” Speculation on the reasons behind this action vary from involvement in election rigging in Liaoning province to being selected as fall guys for highly public protests by military veterans who can’t find work.

But an Epoch Times report earlier this week suggested an alternative explanation involving a massive welfare lottery fraud worth around “ten billion yuan.” Details are scant, but the scandal reportedly also involves the family of Zeng Qinghong, the former vice-president of China who left politics in 2008.

In June 2015, Li was the government official who announced a five-month campaign by the National Audit Office to make welfare lottery activity more transparent. Li said the widespread corruption among provincial lottery administrators that sparked the probe had “damaged the image of the Party and the government.” Insert ironic eyeroll here.