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China’s big lottery winners hide behind a mask

A lottery winner in Chengdu, China, wears a panda disguise during a ceremony at a lottery center on Feb. 14, 2012. (Photo: Chen Ping, Imaginechina, via AP)

BEIJING — At the tail end of this Chinese year of the horse, China’s latest lottery winner wore a suitable disguise this week to receive his $44 million check — a horse mask.

The man in central Wuhan city follows the pattern of other lottery winners in this country who hide their identity when receiving their oversized checks.

One man hid inside a bear costume to claim his $85 million prize in October. Another wore a large Mickey Mouse head for his win of $80 million in August, and he used a device to scramble his voice at a news conference. Other winners have worn panda suits, or they don face masks ranging from Spiderman and Ultraman to Transformers and the Monkey King of Chinese legend.

Many states in the United States require lottery winners to make a public appearance or at least be publicly identified. But China’s government-run lotteries pledge to protect the winners by withholding personal information to shield them from risks or added demands that could result from their new wealth.

A disguised lottery winner in China claims his prize on May 5, 2008. (Photo: Imaginechina)

The latest example proved no exception. Tuesday’s winner, wearing a horse mask and a hat, asked for plastic bags to cover his shoes — and then demanded that journalists delete all photos of his shoes, the local Chutian Metropolis Daily reported. His fear? A friend had given him those shoes, so any photos might identity him and create “trouble,” he said, according the newspaper in Wuhan.

The winner, dubbed “Mr. Money” by Chutian, plans to establish a $3.3 million foundation for needy individuals and groups. The paper reported: “Relatives said he must donate money and do good deeds for his heart to be at ease. ‘I agree with them’, he said.”

The unnamed winner, who defied his wife’s opposition and spent $100 on lottery tickets every week for the past two years, said he planned to go back to work as normal, after taking just one day off to collect his winnings.

China’s state lottery, which sold a record $62 billion in tickets last year, is the subject of an ongoing corruption probe after multiple scandals, including one involving the former Qingdao city lottery chief, Wang Zengxian, who spent $3.3 million on a luxury yacht and was given a suspended death sentence in 2012, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The government lacks “strict supervision systems for lottery oversight, and such enormous amounts of public funds are highly vulnerable to corrupt practices,” Shi Zhengwen, a tax expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, told Caixin Media last month.

Every big lottery win sparks criticism of the system’s lack of transparency and fairness — topics hotly debated on China’s Internet as lottery sales shift from stores to mobile platforms.

“Many people feel earning money is too slow, and want to get rich quickly,” said Deng Shasha, 31, who teaches Chinese at a college in Wuhan and whose husband buys weekly lottery tickets. “One reason for the lottery’s popularity is because gambling is not allowed,” she said.

“I’m not jealous of the winner, because I believe in fate,” Deng said. But she would do something different, since most winners are men wearing a pig mask or another animal face. “I’d choose a cuter mask – with sunglasses,” she said.

Man wearing a horse mask claims his $44 million prize in China's lottery

To Protect Their Identities, Chinese Lottery Winners Claim Their Prizes Dressed In Costumes

From pandas to Transformers.

With the Powerball jackpot now at a record $1.3 billion, ticket buyers are in a giddy stupor daydreaming about what they’d do, where they’d go and who they’d finally tell off in gold dust skywriting if they win.

Of course, a downside of becoming InstaRich is that it can ruin your life. After their names were posted publicly, past lottery winners have received death threats, watched their relationships fall apart, and endured near-daily badgering from strangers trying to tug at their heartstrings and get a piece of that money pie. Things might be different if winners could conceal their identities, but lottery policy prohibits that for most players. Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, along with Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, yet only six states—Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina—allow winners to remain anonymous.

It’s another story in China, where lottery officials insist that the privacy of the winners be protected for their safety, even though some citizens argue the integrity of the system is undermined when the public doesn’t know who won or how the money is used. Apparently, the winner (or a representative) does still have to pick up the giant check and take publicity photos, which has led to some creative disguises.

In Reddit’s News community, redditor last_treasure posted a roundup of photos of the interesting ways Chinese lottery winners have managed to hide their identities. Congrats, Mickey!

To Protect Their Identities, Chinese Lottery Winners Claim Their Prizes Dressed In Costumes From pandas to Transformers. With the Powerball jackpot now at a record $1.3 billion, ticket