This year's Toto Hongbao draw reduced to $8m to better manage crowds: Singapore Pools

A Singapore Pools employee reminding punters to stand farther apart at Blk 726 Ang Mo Kio Ave 6 on Feb 25, 2021. ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

SINGAPORE - The jackpot for the Toto Hongbao draw on Friday (Feb 26) has been reduced to $8 million from last year's $12 million.

A Singapore Pools spokesman said this was done to better manage the anticipated queues at outlets selling the Toto tickets, in consideration of the health and safety of customers and staff.

As there were no winners in the last Toto draw on Feb 22, the jackpot snowballed to $9.6 million for the Hongbao draw.

A security supervisor, who declined to be named, said he has been placing Toto bets since the lottery started in 1968. This year, he is planning to spend $200 each at three outlets, in Hougang and Kovan.

When asked what he would do with the prize money if he won, he said he would set up his own business and invest in stocks and insurance plans.

The lower prize money did not stop punters from forming snaking queues at Singapore Pools outlets visited by The Straits Times on Thursday. There were long queues at outlets in Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Yishun and Bishan.

At Tong Aik Huat in Hougang, an authorised retailer famous for selling Toto tickets that led to some of the largest jackpots in Singapore's history, the queue stretched down the road and around Housing Board blocks.

At the Singapore Pools outlet at Block 726 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6, ST saw more than 40 punters in the queue between 11am and 11.30am. One of them, who wanted to be known only as Madam Vivien, felt that buying Toto tickets at the outlet was still safe.

"Everyone is wearing masks and not talking to each other. We are also spaced out. So I think it is okay," the 70-year-old said.

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At the Yishun outlet, punters said the queue, though long, was moving fast and it took them only about five minutes to buy the tickets.

By and large, most punters were seen to be adhering to the social distancing measures. Singapore Pools has hired additional staff to help manage crowds during this period and they could be seen reminding punters to maintain the required distance from one another.

Though online betting services are available, many find it difficult to navigate these platforms.

A Hougang resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Cai, said he has been betting for more than 53 years, and that the online platform was inconvenient for the elderly who may not be familiar with setting up a Singapore Pools account.

"I am old already, and I don't know how to use the website. My friends and I like to gather in the neighbourhood to catch up, so I prefer to buy at the outlets," said Mr Cai, 70.

The results of the draw will be announced on Friday at 9.30pm.

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