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MANILA, Philippines – None of the winners in the lotto games that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) augmented by huge amounts for its Christmas and New Year draws placed bets on all combinations to win, the head of the state-run lottery firm testified on Thursday, January 25.
PCSO General Manager Melquiades “Mel” Robles told a Senate Games and Amusement committee hearing that while it is a bettor’s right to bet on all combinations in its lotto games, none of the winners in their “Handog Pakabog” promo draws did this.
“Our records show na hindi naman po binetan ang lahat ng combinations on the day po na tinamaan,” he said. (Our records show that a bet was not placed on all combinations on the day the jackpot was hit.)
“Opo (Yes),” Robles replied when committee chair Senator Raffy Tulfo asked him whether this applied to all the recent winners. He promised to turn over to the committee PCSO records to prove this.
The PCSO raised on December 16, 2023 the minimum guaranteed jackpot for the Grand Lotto 6/55, Ultra Lotto 6/58, Super Lotto 6/49 by P500 million each, and P100 million each for Lotto 6/42 and MegaLotto 6/45 as part of its Christmas and New Year draws.
On December 29, 2023, a lone bettor won P571 million in the Ultra Lotto 6/58, the biggest jackpot in 2023.
On January 16, 2024, a bettor won P640 million with the combination 26-33-14-48-06-42 in the Super Lotto 6/49 draw.
On January 17, another lone bettor won P698 million in the Grand Lotto 6/55 with the correct combination of 24-50-52-09-51-03 through PCSO’s new e-Lotto platform.
Three bettors, meantime, won in the Lotto 6/42 jackpot on January 2 with a prize of P108 million.
Two people split the Megalotto 6/45 jackpot of P121 million on January 8.
Tulfo suspects that the PCSO intentionally boosted the jackpot to reduce the risks for wealthy bettors, who are then able to bet on all combinations to win. For instance, in the 6/49 lotto, he said there are 14 million combinations and at P20 for each bet, a wealthy bettor can spend P240 million to win, and he can recover his investment if the prize is boosted.
Tulfo claimed that PCSO had someone bet on all combinations that was won via e-lotto, and that a machine generated all combinations, a charge that Robles denied.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that based on the history of PCSO’s lotto draws, it usually took months before lotto games with a jackpot prize of P500 million or more were won, but in this recent series of draws, which he described as an “anomaly,” all the games with big prizes produced winners in less than month.
“In less than one month, limang laro ang tinamaan…itong nangyari ng December is really an anomaly. Hindi lang one [lotto] game, limang games,” he said. (In less than one month, 5 games were won…what happened this December is really an anomaly.)
Robles, however, told the committee that no cheating is being done. “We would like to assure you that you can never, never manipulate it, kaya nga po (that’s why) allowed kami mag-bet (even PCSO personnel can bet), Mr. Chair. Even I can bet because it’s beyond me.”
Tulfo said he will push to revise the PCSO charter that allows it to use its prize reserve fund to augment the jackpot, arguing that it is better to use the money for charity and other social welfare needs instead of having only one or several persons end up as millionaires.
Tulfo said the usual practice in countries that have lotteries is to allow the jackpot to grow from the bets, a process which Robles said is called “snowballing.”
Robles agreed this was the usual way to grow the pot and not by augmenting it, but added that the “Handog Pakabog” was a promo that is done “once in a while” by lotteries.
He said the marketing promo generated public interest in lotto betting, and this allowed the PCSO to recover the P1.3 billion it used for the “Handog Pakabog” after generating total sales of P2.2 billion. As a result, he said the PCSO made P800 million in a month plus an additional P240 million for charity.
Robles also said in a television interview last week that betting on all carries a big risk because if there’s more than one winner, the wealthy bettor stands to lose big.
“In the case of 6/49, interesting ito, 14 million ang odds. At P20, that’s only P280 million, eh ang pot mo ay P600 million. Kaya po talaga theoretically [to bet on all combinations and win]. Kaya lang, ‘pag may nakahati ka, dalawa o tatlo, lugi ka na, so talagang chance pa rin,” he told GMA-7’s Unang Hirit on January 18.
(In the case of 6/49, this is interesting, the odds are 14 million. At P20, that’s only P280 million, but your pot is P600 million. That’s why theoretically, it’s really possible [to bet on all combinations and win]. But if you have to share it with two, or three, you already lose, so it’s really still chance.)
‘No manipulation,’ says PCSO
During the hearing, May Cerelles, officer-in-charge (OIC) manager of PCSO’s Information Technology Services department, belied Tulfo’s theory that someone who has “route access” to the PCSO’s system could change the winning numbers.
She said the PCSO has an ISO-certified system that includes safeguards. There are also Commission on Audit (COA) personnel during lotto draws.
Cerelles said lotto betting is closed at 8:30 pm, and by 8:32 pm, the data on the bets are stored in a USB drive. There’s also a CCTV that records each and every draw.
Robles said no one can “manipulate” the system, but added that the PCSO was open to Tulfo’s suggestion of having additional observers during the lotto draws.
Tulfo asked the PCSO and the Bureau of Internal Revenue to turn over their records so they can see whether the winners in the recent draws match with the taxes withheld from the winning bettors.
Arnel Casas, PCSO assistant general manager for gaming, product development and marketing, said the PCSO has not yet submitted to the BIR its “alpha list” indicating the lotto winners for its Christmas and New Year draws, but he promised to turn over the records to the Senate later.
The BIR asked Tulfo to issue a subpoena for these records so they can turn over tax records to the committee, noting that these are protected under the Data Privacy Act. – Rappler.com
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story missed an important quote from PCSO General Manager Mel Robles. It read that Robles replied “yes” to Senate committee chair Senator Raffy Tulfo when asked whether any one of the winners bet an all combinations. This should have been preceded by this quote:
“Our records show na hindi naman po binetan ang lahat ng combinations on the day po na tinamaan,” Robles said. (Our records show that a bet was not placed on all combinations on the day the jackpot was hit.)
The corrected succeeding paragraph to this now reads: “Opo (Yes),” Robles replied when committee chair Senator Raffy Tulfo asked him whether this applied to all the recent winners. He promised to turn over to the committee PCSO records to prove this.) – Rappler.com