Back to list

What would you do if you won the lottery? A foreign laborer's view

2018/06/25 15:42:33

CNA file photo

By Joseph Yeh, CNA staff reporter

What would you do if you won the lottery? That is the question lottery-ticket buyers have asked themselves ever since Taiwan introduced computerized lotteries in 1999.

Since then, hundreds of people have become Taiwan dollar millionaires overnight.

Of course, not all lottery winners have been Taiwanese, as striking it rich is a dream shared by people from different cultures.

In March, for instance, an Indonesian migrant worker won NT$1 million (US$32,888)from a NT$200 scratch lottery ticket he bought in Hsinchu, according to local media reports.

The migrant worker, identified by the owner of the lottery shop as "Ah Long," was overwhelmed after he learned of his winnings, but instead of splashing out, the 22-year-old kept only NT$50,000 and sent the rest back to his family in Indonesia, according to a Chinese-language Liberty Times report.

However, perhaps the most memorable migrant worker lottery winners were a Thai couple who reportedly won the top prize of NT$51 million in Taiwan's computerized lottery in February, 2002.

The married couple with two children, worked as contract laborers at a Yangmei-based textile factory for two years before winning the jackpot in the Feb. 8 drawing of the lottery, according to a CNA report.

Amazingly, their luck didn't stop there as they also won the second prize in the same day's computerized lotto.

News of them hitting the jackpot spread quickly and they promptly moved back to Thailand, never to be heard of again, the report said.

Despite the stories, Taiwan Lottery Corporation declines to identify lottery winners. Unlike most states in the United States, where winners' names are public record, Taiwan's laws do not require them to be made public.

Nevertheless, such rags-to-riches stories keep people, including migrant workers, buying lottery tickets.

To learn what some of the migrant workers in Taiwan would do if they won the lottery, this CNA reporter visited Taipei's "Little Manila" in Zhongshan District near St. Christopher's Church on a Sunday, when many Filipino domestic workers and laborers enjoy a well-deserved day-off, attending mass at the church and meeting up with friends nearby.

Many choose to buy lottery tickets after mass.

Mrs. Liu (劉), the owner of a lottery shop in Zhongshan District, told CNA that she has friends with lottery shops near "Little Manila" and they say more than 60 percent of all lottery ticket purchases at weekends are by Filipino migrant workers.

In her shop, which is about 20 minutes walk from "Little Manila," Liu said she sees fewer migrant workers.

Those who do come are more interested in buying scratch lottery tickets than computerized lottery tickets, she said.

"Female migrant domestic workers often come to our shop when they take seniors out on wheelchair strolls, while male migrant workers often come after a day at work," Liu told CNA.

Clarita Orencia, who works as a housekeeper in Taipei, told CNA that she buys lottery tickets once a month.

When asked what she would do if she won the jackpot, Orencia says she would move back to the Philippines and donate 10 percent of her winnings to charity to help the needy.

Dulce Gelera, a caregiver in Taipei, told CNA that she has only bought lottery tickets twice and won once with a scratch lottery ticket. "It was only NT$400 and I bought a little something," she said.

She said she would also go back home and buy a house if she won big.

There are of course those who don't buy lottery tickets, as in the case of Chona Montano, who recently came to Taipei and has been as a domestic worker for a year.

She said she has never bought a lottery ticket in Taiwan because she is too busy at work and also doesn't think she would win, but if she did buy one and win, Montano said she would use the money to start a small business in the Philippines.

She would also spend part of the money on her children and help her sister finish her studies.

Former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson said: "We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers." It never hurts to dream big.

For those who play the lottery, it is important to remember that even for those who do not win, the money they spend goes to charitable causes in Taiwan.

According to Taiwan Lottery, the company has donated up to NT$4.4 billion since 2007. That money has helped more than 4.9 million underprivileged people through more than 750 public welfare and charity projects organized by 215 social welfare and charity groups as of May 2017.

The lottery has many benefits, so get off the couch and go buy yourself a lottery ticket. Who knows, today might just be your lucky day.