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Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 04:21 GMT 05:21 UK
Lebanese gripped by lottery fever
By Kim Ghattas
BBC News, Beirut

Lebanese lottery ticket
Lebanese have flocked to buy tickets
Lottery fever is gripping Lebanon, with thousands of people rushing to buy tickets before the Monday evening draw.

The top prize has not been won since the beginning of the year and this will be the biggest jackpot in the country's recent history.

The main prize will be 6,306,619,438 Lebanese pounds - enough to make anyone in Lebanon daydream.

It may only be the equivalent of about $4m, but for the Lebanese, it is a record amount.

The last big jackpot was just over $3m and was won in 2003.

Excited and hopeful

Over the last few weeks, people all over the country have been queuing up to pay the equivalent of $1 for a lottery ticket.

Sometimes, they have been buying several and in the case of one man, more than 600 tickets.

But it is not only about the money, even if most Lebanese would welcome it during these dire economic times.

It's been a difficult year for Lebanon, marred by political uncertainty, bombings and a general feeling of hopelessness.

So the lottery is the one topic that gets everybody excited and hopeful.

Even people who never bought a lottery ticket before have joined the race, and it's also apparently helped to relax a tense political atmosphere, according to a caricature in a Lebanese newspaper.

Ten days ago, the president and several ministers traded insults during a stormy cabinet session.

But last week's meeting on lottery night was very quiet.

The caricature shows all the ministers hypnotised by the television screen as the winning numbers are drawn.

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