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Mandarin/Nat Lottery fever is sweeping China, despite laws banning gambling. Experts estimated residents of Beijing alone would spend over 100 (m) million yuan (over 12 (m) million U-S Dollars) on game tickets during the New Year weekend. Gambling is not allowed in China, but the games of chance to which many are becoming addicted are not viewed as gambling. In the week leading up to the Chinese New Year, Beijing's streets were flooded with thousands all sharing the same wish. To be one of the lucky ones taking home a prize such as a television set, a bicycle, or even a new car. Though the odds of winning are minuscule, tens of thousands have been flocking to Beijing's lottery events this year. With cash awards that can be as high as five (m) million yuan (over 600,000 U-S Dollars), it's no wonder. It has been over a decade since lottery tickets were first introduced, with their main purpose being to raise funds for social welfare purposes. At first they were only available on a limited basis, but as their popularity grew, that rule was abandoned. It's another sign of the new China, with an economy buoyed by an increase in free trade, consumerism and less market restraints. Although most people are still in low-wage jobs or farmers, China has witnessed an explosion of new wealth in the past decade. However, as people continue to move to the cities in increasing numbers, they will now be threatened by unemployment as bankrupt state enterprises lay off surplus workers. So the lottery has become the only hope for many of getting sought-after luxury goods. Last year alone, the Chinese government raked in lottery sales of almost 12 (b) billion yuan (1.5 (b) billion U-S Dollars). It is not surprising that the majority of participants are people with low and middle incomes. Lucky winners are on show for all to see. SOUNDBITE (Mandarin): "It's okay. I am pretty lucky!" SUPER CAPTION: Voxpop, man who just won television set But most are not so lucky. The odds of winning a major prize like a car or cash are only one in three (m) million. SOUNDBITE (Mandarin): "Every time there is a lottery, we go... but we never win anything." SUPER CAPTION: Voxpop, young woman with boyfriend However, this does nothing to stop people buying tickets, driven by the hope a big win will lift them up into the high life. It's not a matter of a few pennies on a ticket, either. This couple, like many others, have spent the equivalent of about 25 percent of an average Beijing resident's monthly income. But for the rare big winners, it is their dream come true. SOUNDBITE (Mandarin): "My heartbeat went really fast. I am thrilled. I would have never imagined this." SUPER CAPTION: Voxpop, man sitting in car He certainly couldn't be any happier - though he also admitted to being a bit confused. He now has a brand new car --but no driver's license. You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/youtube/7745a76ecd6c977d498df2ef6045803d Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork