Lottery fever hits Turkey with 55 million lira prize
ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency
DHA photoMillions of Turkish people are getting ready to play for a titanic cash prize in the country’s epic New Year lottery - prompting an outburst of superstition from some.
From buying tickets at particularly “lucky” retailers to being hit by bird droppings, some Turkish people are clearly keen to bag the jackpot - a sum 50,000 times that of the country’s monthly minimum wage.
Days before the lottery draw, would-be winners have formed long lines in front of the “Nimet Abla” (Blessed Sister) outlet, the city’s famous ticket agency located in the Eminönü neighborhood on the historical peninsula.
Despite the wet, cold and windy weather, punters have endured long waiting times, huddled under wind-buffeted umbrellas - all to buy lucky tickets at Nimet Abla.
However, one enterprising ticket seller on the street shouts to those waiting in line that “if you are lucky, it doesn’t matter where you got your ticket.”
The 2015 New Year lottery will deliver a jackpot of 55 million Turkish Liras ($19 million) to one lucky winner, while a total of $99 million in prizes will be allocated to a larger number of other ticket holders.
Thousands believe these prizes will change their lives in a country where the monthly minimum wage is currently around $340.
Ticket seller Ahmet Mutlu believes that if people want to bag the right tickets, they should wait for the right time to buy.
Asking Mutlu what he considered a proper time, he promptly answers “bird droppings,” as “being hit by bird droppings brings luck.”
To strengthen his argument, Mutlu recalls his own experience from last month while he was selling lottery tickets on the street.
On a sunny day, birds were flying overhead and one of them dirtied the tickets he was carrying in his hand.
Mutlu decided that he could not sell the dirty tickets and kept them to return to the Lottery Agency.
After handing back the tickets, he learned that one of them came up with a winning number - netting a cool $7,000.
Halime Ergun, a housewife standing in line outside Nimet Abla, said she was there after a lucky - or possibly unlucky - aerial encounter.
As she was walking earlier with her family in Istanbul’s historic Gülhane Park, a passing bird dirtied her daughter’s shoulder.
Although she personally does not believe in such superstition, she nevertheless decided to buy a ticket, she said.
Ergun said her dream would be to spend the money on her children’s education and invest in opportunities for unemployed women, if she wins the jackpot that is.
Salih Doğan, a university student, was another hopeful standing in line with his own bird-dropping experiences.
“For three years, I got lottery tickets whenever birds hit me. But I never won a prize. It’s not about good luck,” he said.
Doğan, who is clearly aware of slim possibility of hitting the jackpot, says that “the odds are 1-in-10 million” but he maintains his hope by purchasing tickets every time.
“Ultimately someone will hit that prize, so it could be mine,” he said.
Regardless of good-luck charms or bird droppings, someone will win the huge amount of money-- but the biggest winner will be the Turkish government.
The Turkish National Lottery Directorate has reported that when all the tickets are sold, the revenue from their sales will total $170 million.
About 99 percent of the tickets have already been sold and it is expected that the remainder will be sold within days, a spokesman for the directorate said on Dec. 28.
Although the national lottery’s New Year prize has increased every year, the decreasing value of the lira against other currencies in 2015 has affected the worth of the total amount.
This year’s jackpot is 55 million Turkish liras ($19 million) but last year the amount was 50 million liras (valued at $22 million at that time).
Anyone who wants to share in the prizes can buy ticket at full price for 50 liras ($17). A half-price option is 25 liras ($8.5) and a quarter-price ticket is 12.5 liras ($4.25).
If a full-price ticket-holder has the winning number, he or she will not have to share the jackpot because these numbers are unique.
However, for half- and quarter-holders, they will have to divide up their prizes by 50 to 25 percent and share with other holders who have same number.
When the lottery draw is held on New Year’s Eve, Turkey will see if these superstitions pay off.