china lottery
This photo taken on August 10, 2023 shows a woman scratching a lottery ticket at a stand in Beijing. Image Credit: AFP

Shanghai: Chinese livestreamer Chen Ying has spent more than 100,000 yuan (around $14,000) on lottery scratch cards, which she systematically scrapes through on camera for her followers on social media platform Douyin.

But Chen, 28, is not playing to win in the traditional sense.

Instead, she’s leveraging the increasing popularity of the lottery among young people in China to build up her follower count - a gamble that paid off when her fanbase went from a few hundred to more than 45,000 in the space of six months.

Lottery sales in China soared to almost 274 billion yuan in the first half of the year, an increase of more than 50 percent year-on-year.

“I think it may be because it is not easy to make money now, especially when college graduates and unemployed people can’t find a suitable job, which makes them grasp onto the idea of getting rich suddenly,” Chen, who is based in central Hunan province, told AFP.

Many of Chen’s followers are college students, and one-third are under the age of 23, according to their profiles.

“In people’s subconscious, the opportunity to get rich through labour is decreasing, so they are more willing to ‘take a chance’ through the lottery to see if they can get rich overnight through luck,” Huang Zhenxing, a professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, told Chinese media Caijing recently.

china lottery
This photo taken on August 10, 2023 shows a woman buying a lottery ticket at a stand in Beijing. Image Credit: AFP

“It also means that people have little confidence in the current economy.”

On Douyin, Chen’s fans tune in for the vicarious thrill of seeing her tear through cards, leaving messages under the videos detailing their own luck.

“The possibility of... achieving overnight wealth is small,” Chen said matter-of-factly, something made clear to her audience by her repeated failures to win big.

“Basically I’m trying to get popularity... and have more people get to know me and my brand.”

‘Sense of possibility’

Chen is far from the only influencer to have jumped on the lottery bandwagon.

Videos tagged with scratch card brand “Guaguale” - “scratch, scratch, happy” - have been viewed more than 6.7 billion times on Douyin, while there are 120 million views under the topic #Guaguale on Xiaohongshu.

Curtis Cheng, 25, has found himself buying scratch cards more this year and has noticed he is not alone - at lunch and dinner time, the lottery stand near him is surrounded by young people.

“It’s a kind of small lucky feeling,” Cheng told AFP. “It’s not a big deal if you don’t win, it’s just a way to spice up your life.”

But he said he thought there was also a deeper issue at play related to economic confidence.

“I think it’s probably because young people need a sense of possibility,” he said. “They need some luck to help them improve their current situation.”

Erika Cui, who works in the IT industry, said a scratch card provided a brief second of escape.

“The feeling of not having to think about my bad life because I’m so excited about the moment is much better than winning the lottery or not winning itself!” she said.

“The economy hasn’t been very good over the years... the pressure of work and life is quite high, and everyone’s mental state is really worrying,” the 25-year-old said.

Cui linked the increasing popularity of the lottery to a burgeoning dropout culture that pushes back against China’s often intense study and work pressure.

“I feel that it is more of a self-deprecating state of ‘life is like this, why don’t we play a scratch card for fun, what if I win the lottery?’” she said.