Chinese: Should Lottery Winner’s Identity Be Made Public?

Lottery balls in China.

Lottery balls in China.

From NetEase:

Lottery Player Wins Huge 520 Million Jackpot, Fairness of Not Publicizing Prize-Winner’s Identity Questioned

As administrative law, are the current “Lottery Administration Regulations” trending too much towards business regulations [the regulation of trade and transactions], neglecting the public’s right to know [details of a situation]? Has it gone too far in keeping information about a prize winner secret?

According to reports, a lottery player in Taiyuan recently grabbed the Union Lotto top prize, a jackpot reaching 520 million yuan. With regards to such an astronomical figure, many netizens aren’t jealous, envious, and hateful but questioning the fairness of the lottery, with there even being someone saying it is “fabricating children’s fairy tales, to lure even more people into buying lottery tickets.”

There were a couple people who suggested that the questioning was out of jealously, but the questioning in the comments under the relevant news articles were like a wave, and thus for a lottery founded on being public and transparent, the questioning has become an issue about public credibility worth reflecting on.

Open transparency is undoubtedly the best disinfectant. The “Lottery Administration Regulations” enacted by the State Council in 2009 stipulates: The issuing, sale, and drawing of lottery tickets should comply with the principles of being open/public, fair, just, and honest/trustworthy; the lottery ticket issuance and sales agencies should provide society full disclosure on the issuance and sales of lottery tickets, and accept the public’s supervision. However, these regulations simultaneously stipulate: “The prize winner’s personal information should be kept confidential”.

This then presents a paradox: If the prize-winner’s information isn’t made public, how can the public effective exercise oversight? So, every time a huge jackpot is awarded, there is always controversy over whether or not the identity of the recipient of the huge jackpot should be made public.

How should a huge jackpot recipient’s right to privacy and the transparency of the lottery be balanced?

One interesting phenomenon is that when you open the official websites of lotteries in the United States, UK, and such countries, there are often detailed personal information about the recipients of major prizes, including photographs, their names, reactions to winning, etc. Opposite that is the information of China’s winners being firmly hidden.

Why do Western countries that normally stress individual privacy instead demonstrate even more openness when it comes to information about recipients of major prizes? This requires looking at the nature of the lottery. Although the lottery looks like a simple transaction, the lottery isn’t actually a “private transaction”, one that requires an emphasis on privacy rights; on the contrary, the lottery is a government monopoly business, where it collects funds from the people through the issuance of lottery tickets and then takes a portion of it to distribute as prizes to individuals. The lottery prize money by nature is still public property, so of course the public has the right to know [who it goes to].

With that said, the recipient of the prize is taking the public’s money, and on the basis of transparency in public property, his privacy rights must yield. In America, information about prize recipients is made public in principle in accordance with the “Freedom of Information Act”, but there is some differences between how states implement it in practice. At present, aside from six states including Kansas, all the other states require that the identity of the winner be made public. However, if the winners believe information about winning will bring some latent danger to their personal safety, they can also get a court order that their identity not be made public, or establish a company or fund to collect the prize money. Nonetheless, where the prize money goes is still clearly known, balancing privacy rights and the public’s right to know.

After making such a crosswise comparison, we also have to think: as administrative law, are the current “Lottery Administration Regulations” trending too much towards business regulation, neglecting the public’s right to know? Has it gone too far in keeping information about a prize winner secret? Hopefully future “Lottery Regulations” can provide a response.

Comments from NetEase:

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网易北京市网友 ip:115.183.*.*

The major prize winners in our country all have the following notable characteristics:
1. They all bought their lottery tickets far from where they live or work.
2. None of the people at the lottery ticket sales stand or nearby recognize him.
3. They all purchased dozens of tickets.
4. They’re usually middle-aged men.
5. They all wear face-masks when collecting their prize.

It’s basically always a middle-aged man, who went to somewhere unknown, who buys hundreds of tickets at once, as if they know they’re definitely going to win…

萌油瓶 [网易天津市网友]:

Fabricating people who reap without sowing, to con a bunch of people who want to reap without sowing, ultimately supporting a bunch of people who really do reap without sowing.

牛求异 [网易浙江省温州市鹿城区网友]:

People who buy lottery tickets are all voluntarily paying a low-IQ tax to society.

贰两包子 [网易辽宁省沈阳市网友]:

Not only is it not transparent, there have already been multiple times where someone has won the big prize after a single ticket multiplied a hundred times. That probability is one in a ten billion!

牛求异 [网易浙江省温州市鹿城区网友]:

I’ve heard something like this: Whether or not gambling is illegal depends on who the dealer/house is.

供着贪官小三财产禁止观看 [网易上海市网友]:

Who spends over 200 yuan in tickets, and wins? Try it again and let’s watch you lose it all. Not making [the identity of the winner] public is fraud!

网易天津市网友 ip:111.164.*.*

Can’t believe there are actually people who persist in buying [playing the lottery]. Search online for incidents of lottery fraud. My friends, wake up!

网易美国网友 ip:75.90.*.*

It is extremely likely that it’s all a trick, and in fact, it’s us planting chives, and them harvesting chives bringing it all home [pocketing it]. And we’re still thinking someone really won it all. The best way to clear out a prize pool is to have some mystery person win it all at once.

网易湖北省仙桃市网友 ip:58.53.*.*

One word: “fake”. Either way, I’m not playing.

无味半川 [网易上海市网友]:

When there are countless eyes emitting a green glow, and countless fangs emitting a white glow, you just try making the winner’s information public and see what happens.

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • mr.wiener

    I’m damn sure I wouldn’t want my identity published if I won the lotto.
    Edit: I’m sensing a lack of trust here.

    • SongYii

      Sure would be nice to know SOMEONE won, and the money didn’t just go into government coffers.

      • Ruaraidh

        By government coffers do you actually mean secret overseas bank accounts?

  • Some guy

    Reading this I was going to say their identity should NEVER be published. Now I’m not so sure.

  • AbC

    Generally in many western countries, you are scared of your friends and family finding out about your jackpot win and subsequently pressuring you to share the winnings.
    In China, you’re scared of your son/daughter/wife being kidnapped and held for ransom. A few lottery winners have also been murdered as well.
    The safety of the lottery winners and their family should be more important than the transparency demanded by the public. But then again… How do you prove a random person won from sheer luck without informing the public their information?
    Is it not enough to just release information on which lottery kiosk produced the winner, what type of ticket, and in what area the winner came from.

    • Rick in China

      “In many western countries” — eh? If anyone in my family won the lottery, they’d “share the winnings”. I’m sure there are many people who wouldn’t, or whose families aren’t close, but wouldn’t it be natural to want to, if you won millions of dollars suddenly, help your family out with financial pressures? I’d imagine that’d be one of the best ways to spend that money….as opposed to say, buying a big fuckin’ boat and partying it into a very quick back-in-debt situation.

      • David

        True, my wife and I keep a list of people in the family and how much we would give them if we ever won. Now, if I could actually convince myself to buy a ticket, the relatives might be happy.

        • SongYii

          Here, mom…. this is how many dollars I love you.

        • Just remember you can’t lose if you don’t play…

      • SongYii

        I think he’s talking about the distant cousins you’ve never heard of or grudging brother who hasn’t answered your calls in years suddenly reappearing when you’ve won the lottery.

        • Rick in China

          Personally I’d not be worried whatsoever about that – anyone who I wouldn’t want to hook up with something, I’d easily be able to respond abruptly with a “fuck off” of sorts for those undesirable contacts. I just disagree with the generalisation is all.. I would imagine if I asked people I know whether, if they won the lottery, they’d be worried about people pressuring them for money.. I think the answer would typically be “”.

      • AbC

        I was trying to come up with reasons of why someone would want their identity hidden and giving a difference of reasoning between people in China and the western world to illustrate why it’s more important for winners in China to want to keep their identity hidden.

        I’m not saying at all that all westerners would want to hide their winnings from relatives/friends. I am sure you’d rather secretly share your winnings with only a small select group of people close to you without everyone knowing you are suddenly 50mil richer. That’s just my opinion of course.

        • Rick in China

          Yeah I get that.. but it’s a grey area no matter how the cake is sliced, because without transparency people would be so inclined to think it’s all a scam, with transparency you have winners potentially pissed off or in danger for being identified, I understand what you meant – just wanted to point out that the implication ‘westerners’ would be most concerned about family beggers is likely not a very accurate depiction :D

  • Rick in China

    It’s funny. I know someone whose father — a very rich land developer — won the lottery twice (maybe more now) in a very short time span. They used software and algorithms of sorts, I don’t know the details beyond the fact that it seems the “welfare lottery” is not won by those who need it most, but rather those who can game the system. Maybe it’s different now…but I’m not guessing so.

    • SongYii

      Theres a statistician at, I believe, the University of Texas who won the lottery 3 times in something like 12 years. Part of her story is featured in one of the Freakanomics books, I think the first one.

    • Ken Morgan

      That’s the nature of karma it doesn’t work! bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

  • If I May

    In China? Yes and no… On the one hand, it would probably be a bad idea to publish the name of a winner because many folks over here tend to be gullible and therefore susceptible to scams. On the other, publishing the names of winners could add a bit of credibility to the Chinese lottery. I say make the names public.

  • ThinkBlue

    They could at least open it up ask if the person wants their name made public with an article about them, like how it is done in the US. Go to any major US lottery’s website. There’s plenty of people/groups who make it public and plenty who remain anonymous or have a legal entity claim it for them. I think you would get few people in China who would agree to be made public, but it might catch on. Gotta start somewhere.

    • jon

      Not true. In the US, it depends on the state. Most states, it is required by law to have your name released and the place where it was purchased. I think there is only 4 states that you can choose to stay annoymous.

  • lonetrey / Dan

    There’s just no middle ground here. The government shouldn’t be trusted to not pocket the lottery money, but I don’t think we can trust any society with publicizing the lottery winner’s information either…

    • donscarletti

      Abolish the damn lottery then.

    • Ken Morgan

      A historical list? say 3-5 years AFTER the event? WIth a million quid somebody can move away quite far away.

      • lonetrey / Dan

        That’s a good idea actually, but problem would be having to wait 3-5 years to find out whether the money wasn’t stolen or not. I can only imagine a scandal where the jackpot was won only to find out the money has been all tied up and invested elsewhere. Or worse, investments failed and there is no more money… kind of like the Wall Street scandals in America.

  • Amused

    Awwwwww, c’mon!!! Where is the trust in “Uncle Mao”… Why would the people of China not trust their benevolent and enlightened rulers? Don’t they know that officials need this and other black money to get them and their diseased families into other countries so that China can be corruption free??? Anyone who doubts the efficacy of this masterful plan is obviously an Imperialist running dog… I’m not sure what a “running dog” is, but they definitely are.

    • David

      I wish I could be an imperialist running dog. Sounds like a great gig. Unfortunately I can barely be a jogging dog. I need to exerciser more.

      • firebert5

        I had to start jogging inside. The air here made it terrible to jog outside in the morning.

    • Video of Running Dog…

  • SongYii

    Make the names public a certain time after remitting the winnings… let the winner be stable, work out a way to secure his safety and his new found wealth.

    No reason to get killed when you’re poor as shit and will end up blowing all the money in a few years anyway.

  • Janus

    if Chinese lottery wants to be seen as being transparent and credible, then they need to work on themselves to be transparent and credible. A right to individual privacy should not be sacrificed just so some organisation can be seen as more genuine.

  • Brian227

    Lack of trust is exactly it and I’m not sure how it can be reestablished. Total transparency of everybody’s assets would possibly work but who really wants such a total lack of privacy?