The lottery in Japan is becoming a better option than social welfare, pensions and the way out of the system

lotteryOver the years I have always been ambivalent towards playing the lottery and have never bought tickets for a lotto not even once. State lotteries are really a tax (call it a “voluntary tax”) and the revenue is used by the state which then uses lottery tickets sales revenue to purchase government bonds. Yet, what’s wrong with allowing people to buy their hope or dream? Winning the lottery is about a 1 in 13 million chance with smaller earnings for more winners of a lottery. The odds are certainly against lottery ticket buyers, but that doesn’t stop sales in the least.  Last year November, 1,400 people stood in line before the sales booth opened in Nishi-Ginza to purchase lottery tickets for the year-end jumbo lottery that went on sale. The reason why there were so many people lined up at the Hishi-Ginza lottery tickets sales booth, is because this location had sold winning tickets in the past. This March, 2016 Japan’s lottery will be the biggest in Asia with US$206 million in money to be won. There will be 17 First Prize payouts totaling ¥6.8 Billion (over ¥400 million each). This doesn’t mean 17 people will win ¥400 million each; it means this is the money that is available to win provided the lottery numbers are chosen.

The prize last year was a record ¥1 billion yen; the year before in 2014 it was 700 million yen. The thing about lotteries in Japan is that the winnings are not taxed and the winners are usually kept confidential. The tickets sell for ¥300 each and sales ended December 22 for this lottery and the winner was announced at the end of December. Whoever the winner or winners were, it meant they could quit their jobs. Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be notified you just won ¥1 billion (US$10.78100 million) Yen? That is the lure of lotteries. The upside on lotteries is that it really isn’t gambling. It’s not like you have to empty out your life’s savings to participate. The subject when in discussions with others is always an interesting topic since it brings up so many different ways to look at the lottery. Some are adamantly opposed to lotteries, others are enthusiastic about the lottery buying lottery tickets regularly, or there are people like myself who are somewhat indifferent, not unless a different way is developed where the lottery proceeds can be shared more equitably. Then I might participate.

The lure of winning big in Japan’s lottery is a very powerful inducement, and as the economy turns bleaker it seems, inflation kicks in (even if it is alleged to be at 2%), Japan’s pension and social welfare system turn cloudy, and the future looks uncertain for many Japanese people, the lottery is becoming all the more attractive. The estimated revenue pulled in throughout Japan for one lottery is well over ¥1 trillion which is astonishing. The lottery was introduced in Japan just before the end of WWII and the revenue was used to purchase much needed military hardware. Today, it is probably no different with the Japanese government investing the proceeds from lottery ticket sales into long term bonds I would think. Government takes in over ¥1 trillion and pays out ¥400 million – if there is a winner. Not bad. Hope in a ticket which is why I have never purchased even one lottery ticket.