Lotto Fever strikes BIG in Japan

People across Japan turned out in large numbers last week to line up and get their hands on tickets for “BIG”, a variation on the soccer lottery “toto” operated by the National Agency for the Advancement of Sports and Health. The combined sales figure for all soccer lottery tickets was a record high 6.5 billion yen, with 1.5 billion yen carried over from 12 previous rounds, each of which had failed to deliver a winner. Previously suffering from sluggish sales, the popularity of the lottery soared recently as prize money climbed.

Last Sunday, prizes were awarded to a total of seven top-place winners, each of whom received 563 million yen (approximately 4.6 million US dollars). The size of these individual payouts was second only in the history of the lottery, the largest amount having been recorded last November when one person won 584,156,640 yen.

The immense popularity of “BIG” apparently caused headaches for toto last week when their computer system crashed as people rushed to buy tickets, forcing popular convenience stores to suspend sales. This popularity is reportedly due in part to a change in strategy on the part of the lottery operator: while the “toto” lotto normally allows ticket buyers to bet on their favourite J-league teams, in the case of “BIG”, these selections are made automatically at random, levelling the playing field for non-experts.

Toto "BIG" Lottery

Toto "BIG" Lottery

Blogger Digital Motox does some quick calculations, and writes:



TOTO-BIG ! Dreaming of the 600 million yen in prize money, I went and bought my ticket.
I think everyone knows what TOTO is, but this time, because of carry over, the first-place prize money has risen to 600 million yen, and it has become a big topic of conversation. With TOTO-BIG, you don't need to make any predictions about who will win soccer games, you just buy a ticket and the machine automatically chooses for you. It's really completely like a normal lottery. The prize money is 600 million yen.
Some people might think about trying to buy all possible patterns for 300 yen each,

but the number of different patterns for all possible game results is 4,782,969.
If you buy all these tickets, it comes out to 1,434,890,700 yen.
But then, since the computer chooses for you, even at this amount there is a chance that you won't get a first-prize ticket.

Blogger ichiko has a slightly different take on the thinking behind the lottery:


At a seminar about funds that I attended yesterday evening, I heard people talk about figures like 68 billion yen and 87 trillion yen, but they didn't mean much to me. And yet, there was all this excitement last week about the soccer lottery called “BIG”. Apparently, they sold half as many tickets in one week as they did over the whole previous year. I guess everybody figured that they had a chance of getting the individual prize money of 600 million yen. There were very long lines.


Apparently the magician Princess Tenko was one of the third-place winners. Is this an illusion?! This week the price money has returned to the ordinary “300 million yen per first-place winner”, but even this is an incredible amount of money. In everyday life, enormous figures come and go. “This place sold a winning ticket” — if you see a phrase like this, you just have to line up. There are some things that humans will never learn. I guess it's because people have this hope that: “There's always a chance…”

Other bloggers were less than happy with the change in direction of the toto, from one that claims to be “promoting awareness about sports” to a focus on gambling. Blogger Sukaidon writes




What I want to say is this:

  • As long as a system like the current one continues to be used, the carry-over will pile up to the degree that another similar ruckus will occur.
  • However, in periods where there is no carry-over, the pace of sales remains at 18 million yen, so there is no point in strengthening the system.
  • Consequently, toto should reform the system in such a way as to focus only on people who buy tickets with the intent of making a donation to soccer (and to sports within Japan).
  • Right from the start, reform of the BIG system has not contributed to “promoting an awareness about sports”.
  • People who have no intention of making a contribution to soccer (and sports within Japan) should stop this kind long-shot gambling.

Finally, another blogger summed up the frustration of many in this entry:

いまさらですが先週のtoto Big

It's a real shame for many reasons.
It's already over, but last week we had the toto Big lottery.
Actually I was lured by the 600 million yen into buying a ticket.
When I saw the result I realized that I hadn't made it, but
I couldn't bring myself to throw out the ticket.
Then yesterday, I was speaking with friends, and
they told me that one of the first prize tickets was issued from a store in my neighbourhood!
I panicked and went onto the Internet to re-check the results of the lottery draw, but
it wasn't me that won…


  • […] People across Japan turned out in large numbers last week to line up and get their hands on tickets for BIG, a variation on the soccer lottery toto operated by the National Agency for the Advancement of Sports and Health, says Global Voices‘ Chris Salzberg. […]

  • Snowball

    I bought this ‘Big ‘lottery ticket in Japan and I strike 6 number out of 14 do I win ? The Lottery ticket in on 733回 (11220 12100 1211) anyone’s can help me to check this Tq

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