Source: The Mercury, 12 March, 1998, p.19
WHAT will the world's keenest gamblers do this Black Friday in what's supposed to be the unluckiest of years? Defy the odds and have a betting splurge, probably. Australian lottery ticket sales often go through the roof on Friday the 13th, which falls tomorrow- for the second consecutive month- in what will be a 1998 triple. Australian cricketers tradition- ally suffer an inverted form of "triskaidekaphobia"-their hoodoo number is 87 - 13 short of 100. But punters are affflicted by no such folly, especially the many of Chinese origin for whom the num- ber 13 is actually considered lucky. Australians wager more than $3300 each year for every man, woman and child, three times more than any other nation, and Friday the 13th is one of the big business days. "People try to beat the bad luck jinx by taking it on," said Lee Webster, of NSW Lotteries, where sales sometimes increase more than 50%. On Black Friday in 1990 for example, more than four full lot- terles sold out in 10 hours. Thirteen is lucky for some. Like the 48-year-old man from Helens- burgh, on the NSW south coast, who on Friday, September 13, 1996, won the then highest-ever $2 Jackpot Lottery prize of $5.6 million. The $1 million first prize in the state's Lucky 7 Lottery went off in the 13th week and again following a 13-week break. Luck, like lightning, can strike twice or even three times for some people: Patricia, a woman in her 60s from western Sydney, won $1.1 million on NSW Lotto in January. Her sister and mother won $2.5 million in Victoria's Tattslotto in Ballarat six years ago. Six years before that her uncle in Warrnam- bool won around $500,000. "On the Friday before [her Lotto fortune] I won $130 on the pokies at the RSL on machine number 113," Patricia said. "The previous Monday I won $13 on Lotto. I was never superstitious of the number 13." A Taree pensioner won $25,000 in Lotto Strike two years ago, then $500,000 in Lotto last year. A Lithgow prison officer who won $373,000 in Lotto last year was just capping off the good fortune enjoyed by his brother who won $333,000 six months earlier. An eight-member health centre~ syndicate from Wollongong won $100,000 lottery prizes twice in two years. The chances of that, as- suming they had a ticket in all 300 draws in that time, are around one in 54 million. Some people are just plain lucky, says Sydney casino spokesman Pe- ter Grimshaw. "There are regulars who have a winning edge over us over a long period," he said. "By all tests of mathematics and statistics they should be behind but they are ahead n because they are luckier thah others. "They have to be good players, too. If they're playing blackjack, for example, they have to know when to sit and when to take a card. They have to know their business." Of the casino's 10,000 registered "high rollers", he estimates "several hundred" are ahead of the house. "We believe overall that statistics are the key. But no doubt there's luck." Superstitions abound among the Asians who make up 50% to 60% of the casino's customers. They will ignore the comfortable seats around an empty baccarat table, for example, to stand four and five deep around another identical table because the second table "is perceived as being lucky at the time". But the Chinese have no aversion to the number 13 because its literal meaning is "alive", explains King Fong, chairman of Sydney's Chinese New Year festival. Another favourite number is eight, which means "fortune". The bogy number is four, which sounds like the word for "dying" or "death". People in Hong Kong don't like living on the 14th floor or at number 4 in a street. "Even worse is 44, because if four is death then 44 is certain death," said Fong. Chinese home buyers had been willing to pay councils hundreds of dollars to have their house numbers changed from 4 to 3A or 3B. The Chinese were among immi- grant groups to make gambling popular in Australia, says Jan McMillen, professor of gaming at the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur. "Most of the people who settled this country came from cultures that were predisposed to gambling and a belief in luck-the Chinese Irish Catholics, the Mediterranean countries. And since the 1970s there's been a second wave of Asian immigration. "The puritan Protestant view has been that you are rewarded for effort, not luck. But the Protestants have been overwhelmed. "It's been interpreted as a victory for the working class. Wowserism has become an insult." On average, Friday the 13th occurs 1.71 times a year, according to University of NSW probability expert Professor Estate Khmaladze. It can occur a maximum of three times in one year. That happens only when it falls in February in a non-leap year, followed by one in March, as is the case this year. The third is in November. Why Friday the 13th should be considered unlucky is not clear although one explanation is that Christ was crucified on a Friday and there were 13 men at the Last Supper.
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