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10 April, 2006 - Published 09:53 GMT
Lebanon's Record Lottery Jackpot
Lottery fever is gripping Lebanon, with thousands of people still rushing to buy tickets before the Monday evening draw. The top prize has not been won since the beginning of the year and this will be the biggest jackpot in the country's recent history. This report from Kim Ghattas:
Six billion three hundred and six million, six hundred and nineteen thousand four hundred and thirty eight Lebanese pounds, a dizzying amount of money, enough to make anyone in Lebanon daydream. It may only be the equivalent of about four million US dollars, but for the Lebanese, it's a record amount which can go a long way. The last big jackpot was just over three million US dollars and was won in 2003.
Over the last few weeks, people all over the country have been queuing up to pay one US dollar for a lottery ticket. Sometimes, they've been buying several and in the case of one man, more than six hundred tickets. But it's not only about the money, even if most Lebanese would welcome it during these dire economic times.
It's been a difficult year for Lebanon, marred by political uncertainty, bombings and a general feeling of hopelessness. So the lottery is the one topic that gets everybody excited and hopeful. Even people who never bought a lottery ticket before have joined the race and it's also apparently helped to relax a tense political atmosphere, according to a caricature in a Lebanese newspaper. Ten days ago, the president and several ministers traded insults during a stormy cabinet session. But last week's meeting on lottery night was very quiet. The caricature shows all the ministers hypnotised by the television screen as the winning numbers are drawn.
Kim Ghattas, BBC News, Beirut
a dizzying amount of money
the equivalent of about
dire economic times
a tense political atmosphere
a stormy cabinet session