More than 380,000 people had a winning stake in the welfare lottery's 3D game on Friday, with payouts in the No 05154 issue reaching 240 million yuan (US$29 million) - the highest since the first welfare lottery ticket was issued in China in 1987.
The issue's sales across the country hit 78.3 million yuan (US$9.5 million), meaning more than 160 million yuan (US$19 million) has to be earmarked from the overall bonus pool to cover the prizes.
Although the payout was more than three times the sales of issue No 05154, the overall bonus pool has grown rapidly in size, according to He Yi, director of the Information Office with the China Welfare Lottery Issuing Centre.
The welfare lottery saw a weekly sales record of 920 million yuan (US$111.2 million) in the first week of June, with the 3D game's weekly sales topping 506 million yuan (US$61 million), or 55 per cent of total welfare lottery sales.
"The welfare lottery has provided impetus to China's welfare development and has been a major factor in preventing the country's public welfare system falling far behind fast economic development," He said.
Some 35 per cent of total lottery ticket sales is given to charitable causes, while 50 per cent is sent back into circulation as prize money. The remainder is used to run the lottery.
Statistics from the centre show that welfare lottery sales had exceeded 22.6 billion yuan (US$2.73 billion) by the end of 2004, raising 7.9 billion yuan (US$955 million) for the country's public welfare system another record.
China's sports lottery, the welfare lottery's sister, has also grown rapidly since it debuted in 1994. Its sales reached 15.5 billion yuan (US$1.87 billion) last year.
Several government departments including the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Public Security have stepped up a clampdown on illegal lottery sales and underground gambling to guard against financial disorder.
The sale of all lottery tickets, apart from those for the welfare and sports lotteries, have been banned from the domestic market by the State Council.
Peng Zhenqiu, a professor with the Socialism Academy of Shanghai, said China needs a law to regulate the fledgling lottery trade to ensure it helps stimulate economic development.
Lottery sales around the world now amount to US$120 billion a year with an annual growth of 18 per cent. China's lottery business has grown at a 50 per cent pace annually in recent years, with the country's total lottery sales ranking ninth in the world, statistics show.