EDITORIAL - Striking a balance

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Striking a balance

With the launch of e-lotto, even the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, which operates the national lottery, surely understands the need to ensure the integrity of the games. Yesterday, PCSO officials faced the Senate amid renewed suspicions about rigged lotto results and fake winners.

It was not the first time that the PCSO faced such suspicions. In October 2022, the public was amazed by the report that a record 433 people had won the P236-million jackpot in the 6/55 Grand Lotto. The 433 divided the prize into P545,000 each for guessing the winning combination 9-18-27-36-45-54 – all multiples of nine.

PCSO general manager Melquiades Robles denied any anomaly at the time. The odds of the incident happening soured public interest in the lottery, but this proved to be short-lived as jackpots piled up. In 2023, several jackpots worth over P100 million each were won.

Now the PCSO is again fending off suspicions of rigged games after a string of major lotto wins within this month alone. The biggest so far – P698.8 million in the 6/55 Grand Lotto – was won by an e-lotto player. Shortly before this, a bettor also bagged the P640.6-million Super Lotto 6/49 jackpot. Other major wins in recent weeks included a P571.55-million pot and P310.69 million. Those massive amounts were made possible after the PCSO used its reserves to raise the jackpot by P100 million for each game and encourage more betting as it rolled out online lottery in December.

To dispel suspicions of rigged games and fake winners, the PCSO had posted a photo of a woman receiving a check for over P43.88 million that she won in the Dec. 28 lotto 6/42 draw. Even this move, however, became controversial after the PCSO edited the woman’s clothing. The PCSO explained that this was done to protect the woman, who could be targeted by criminal elements if her identity was revealed.

It’s a valid explanation; there are people in this country who will commit murder to steal such an amount from a confirmed lottery winner. The PCSO will have to strike a balance between protecting winners’ privacy and making the public believe that all lotto draws are aboveboard. At the same time, it will have to ensure that e-lotto will be protected from hackers. Public trust is a critical element of the lottery, and must be protected as much as the privacy of winners.

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