Economy down; lotto sales up, up & away

Published by rudy Date posted on February 1, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—How will Filipinos get through hard times? They will buy more lotto tickets.

As mass layoffs rise due to the global economic crisis, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) has recorded its biggest earnings in 2008.

PCSO officials expect Filipinos to continue to play lotto despite the huge odds against winning.

The PCSO is mandated to conduct charity sweepstakes, races and lotteries. Its main products are the sweepstakes, the online keno, the small-town lottery and its biggest drawer, the online lotto.

From 1995 to 2008, PCSO earned a total of P146.08 billion with sales increasing an average of 14.92 percent or P1.47 billion a year.

PCSO Chair Sergio Valencia reported a steady increase in sales from 2001 to 2008.

Optimism, hope

“Significantly, the sales figure doubled from 2004 to 2008. In 2008, we raised some P23.04 billion in sales out of which P2.5 billion in taxes had been paid,” he said during the PCSO’s 75th anniversary rites last week.

PCSO officials do not foresee the trend reversing this year.

“Last year, there was already a crisis but our earnings were higher than the target of P23 billion,” said PCSO vice chair and general manager Rosario Uriarte.

“So far it’s not declining, it’s even going up,” she added.

The PCSO earned P18.7 billion in 2007.

Uriarte attributed the continued patronage of the lotto games despite hard times to the intrinsic optimism of Filipinos.

“We need hope. This moves them to buy even one ticket of sweepstakes or lotto every day. So that every day, they will have some kind of hope,” she said.

Last year, the widely popular lotto contributed more than P20 billion to PCSO coffers.

Since it took off in 1995, lotto has produced 1,332 millionaires who were lucky enough to guess the winning jackpot of the six-pick number games.

The small town lottery, meanwhile, generated more than P2 billion in just a little more than a year in operation.

“We are bracing [for the impact of the economic crisis], but we’re hoping we won’t be affected. What we can assure you is we will maximize every peso we make,” Valencia said.

Free pacemakers

He said the PCSO, in a tie-up with the Rotary Club of Manila Bay and the Philippine Jaycees Senate Foundation, was able to access an unlimited supply of free pacemakers through a three-year subscription to Heart Beat International.

Now on its third year of implementation, 103 indigent patients have been provided with free pacemakers that cost P800,000 each.

As the economic crisis deepens, it will become harder for people to get medical care.

Uriarte said he hopes Filipinos will continue to play lotto to help fund the government’s charity projects. “Right now, charity is a dole out. But here it’s not a dole out, because the money comes from bettors who are given hope in exchange.”

Where the money goes

Under the law, PCSO’s earnings are split three ways: 55 percent for the prize money, 15 percent for the operating funds and 30 percent for charity.

The PCSO charity fund is spent on medical and dental missions, medical assistance and upgrade of hospitals, health centers, daycare centers, private health institutions and some NGOs.

It also provides medical assistance through guarantee letters to hospitals and health facilities. Nearly half of the beneficiaries receive assistance for payment of their hospitalization expenses, followed by beneficiaries who need dialysis and chemotherapy.

PCSO also donates to charitable institutions that take care of abandoned or abused children and youth, the elderly and the handicapped.

It is also mandated by several laws to contribute more than P6 billion of its earnings to government agencies for various projects.–Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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