27 October 2016
People return to normal daily life after their dream of winning the HK$100 million Mark Six jackpot ended. Photo: HKEJ
People return to normal daily life after their dream of winning the HK$100 million Mark Six jackpot ended. Photo: HKEJ

If the Mark Six jackpot were a billion …

Oh well, there’s always next time.

Life goes on for the rest of us but it will never be the same for the five lucky winners of Tuesday’s record HK$136 million (US$17.5 million) jackpot.

Millions of dreamers, myself included, have fancied themselves firing their employers if they won the lottery or simply disappearing from work to spend it away.

But a HK$27 million share of the money for each winner is not really a huge sum to retire on.

It can buy you a three or four-bedroom flat you could rent out for HK$70,000 a month, assuming a rental yield of 3 percent.

So the dream of hitting a bigger jackpot lives on.

Apparently, HK$1 billion is in the sights of the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), the Mark Six operator.

It gave the magic number away when it mistakenly advertised a “One Billion Dollar” draw at a betting shop in Des Voeux Road West.

It’s not clear how many more punters ended up taking their bets to the shop as a result, but the error was serious enough to force HKJC to apologize and offer a refund to anyone who might have been misled.

The refund window was open until 30 minutes before the draw. Apparently, no one came forward.

We can only assume they preferred to keep their fingers crossed than get their money back.

The offer was obviously meant to preempt any legal claims. But come to think of it: who will withdraw their bets if they’re hoping to win?

We hope the person who made the mistake, which could have bankrupted the venerable institution, will be spared punishment.

It was obviously an honest mistake even the most thorough bean counter can make.

I haven’t met many bilingual financial journalists who have not confused “billion” with “yik” (億).

“Yik” applies to people who are worth 100 million, not billion.

It has eight zeroes while a billion has nine zeroes. You often see this confusing numerical treatment in the sticker prices on second-hand cars where 2.8 “man” (萬) means HK$28,000.

It will be a long time before the Jockey Club will put up a HK$1 billion jackpot given the total betting pool in Tuesday’s 40th anniversary draw was only HK$446 million.

Nonetheless, it was a club record which works out to about HK$60 for each of Hong Kong’s 7.3 million people.

Those who contributed to the snowball jackpot included hundreds of punters who lined up outside the Stanley Street betting shop in Central, hoping to ride the odds. The outlet has produced 42 winners since 1975.

Demand for ticket was such that the queue stretched 100 meters to Wellington Street.

The so-called “10 hot numbers”, which are considered auspicious or appear frequently, were drawn.

All told, 24 winners shared the second prize of HK$840,000 (five winning numbers plus a special drawn number) while 795 won the HK$68,300 thirds prize (five winning numbers).

The biggest winner was the Jockey Club which took HK$111 million in commissions (25 percent of the betting pool).

Non-winners can take heart from the old Chinese saying that happiness is about contentment.

It’s what makes you fulfilled. Of course, a few millions help.

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EJ Insight writer

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