Lottery ticket buyers in US profit from Chinese customers

Updated: 2016-01-14 21:14

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Lottery ticket buyers in US profit from Chinese customers

An electronic display advertises the Powerball lottery jackpot in the Manhattan borough of New York City, in this picture taken January 12, 2016.[Photo/Agencies]

Scores of overseas purchasing agents, buying lottery tickets on behalf of Chinese people in Asia, made money as a lottery frenzy recently swept the United States and the globe.

The ticket-buying agents, mostly Chinese living in the US, helped people in China buy tickets for the record-high multistate Powerball lottery jackpot in the US. In addition to making a small profit on each ticket, they get a share of any prize won.

Lottery tickets ordinarily cost $2 each, but the agents would mark them up by a few cents to more than double.

Amy Wu, 28, who lives in California, said she sold more than 100 tickets to some 20 Chinese people via her WeChat app, a popular instant messaging service.

"I will definitely take it as a serious business if more Chinese are interested in buying into overseas lotteries," she said.

She said she made about 200 yuan from selling tickets, but only two of the tickets were winners — one for $4 and one for $7.

Wu charged 15 yuan ($2.30) per ticket, and asked for 10 percent of the prize as a commission for each winning ticket.

She normally makes a living as a shopping agent, seeking out quality foreign products, such as bags or shoes, for mainland consumers. But in the past three days, nothing was more popular than lottery tickets.

Buyers just needed to choose six numbers, and Wu would take care of the rest.

Wu is not alone. She is among a group of shopping agents to cash in on Chinese consumers' mounting enthusiasm to win billion-dollar lottery windfalls.

Though no data are available to illustrate how many Chinese used an overseas lottery purchasing service, Wu said that "more and more Chinese came to me" on WeChat as the drawing approached.

Another agent, who refused to give his name but uses the nickname Aitutu online, said he sold lottery tickets for 30 yuan each, about twice the price of one week ago.

"The supply fell short of demand, so it was natural for me to raise the price," he said, adding that he bought over 80 tickets on behalf of mainland consumers in the past week.

When asked about possible disputes over the handling of prize money, Aitutu said, "I don't worry about it. They are my regular consumers and we trust each other."

But for Wu, the question was more about math than faith.

"The chance to win the jackpot is too slim — like 1 in 300 million, so for most people, it is just a way to kill time."

A lottery ticket agent living in the US can accept payments to his or her WeChat wallet, but cannot access the cash in the United States, since WeChat wallets must be tied to Chinese banks.