By Heather Chen, CNN
A 236 million peso ($4 million) lottery jackpot shared among a record number of more than 400 winners has sparked questions in the Philippine Senate as skeptical lawmakers demand an inquiry into the results.
The government-run Grand Lotto draw raised eyebrows on Saturday when each of the 433 winners claimed a 545,000 peso ($9,200) share of the top prize with the winning numbers 9, 18, 27, 36, 45 and 54 — all multiples of nine.
“There is an urgent need for Congress to protect and ensure the integrity of the PCSO’s lotto operations considering their contributions to government coffers and to the economy,” House Minority Leader Marcelino “Nonoy” Libanan said in a resolution filed in the lower house on Tuesday, CNN affiliate CNN Philippines reported.
“We also have to safeguard the hopes and dreams of millions of Filipinos that patronize the lotto draws every day.”
The lottery is run by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), a government agency under the Office of the President tasked with raising funds for health programs and charities, according to its official website.
“It’s a natural occurrence that there are those who bet on the same numbers and many will win if those were drawn,” PCSCO general manager Mel Robles said in a press briefing on Sunday, CNN Philippines reported.
In a televised briefing Tuesday, Robles said identification of the winners in the media showed there was “no basis” to any suspicion about the result. “That should be enough to put this issue to rest,” he said, according to CNN Philippines.
Gambling is popular in the Philippines, where it is regulated by the state. In recent years, the country has staked a claim to be the region’s top gambling hub, with Manila’s glitzy casinos and offshore betting firms vying with the Chinese enclave of Macao and Singapore to target Asia’s rising middle class.
Similar to lotteries in the United States, Europe and Australia, Grand Lotto players pick six numbers from 1 to 55. All six of a player’s numbers must match those drawn by the lottery’s operator to win the jackpot.
In July 2019, lottery games were temporarily suspended in the Philippines when then-President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a corruption investigation.
The lottery ban was lifted just days later with a presidential spokesperson saying machine-operated lottery games were less susceptible to foul play than other gaming activities, CNN Philippines reported.
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