After the recent budget announcement by the Finance Minister, the most tweeted joke in Social Media was about needing to buy 4D.
Every Singaporean knows what 4D or Toto is. More than half the population buys these legal lottery tickets, and the whole thing is managed by the government under an organization called Singapore Pools.
I don’t have to look far. Take my own family. They love 4D and buy a couple of tickets a month. When it comes to picking numbers, superstition and kookiness rule. To me it makes no sense, but they have won using these ‘methods’ so who am I to argue. Like when my sister got a flat tyre, she bought her car number and won the next day. The second time this happened she did the same thing and won again. It was freaky. The winnings were not very huge. She bought a S$2 ticket and won S$50, but the thrill for her was humongous.
There is a morbid element to buying these tickets that gives me the shivers. Often there is a traffic jam, because people are slowing down to copy the number plates of cars involved in accidents. I think it’s a bit of bad luck attracting good luck?
My cousins actually get the winning 4D numbers texted to their phones and they’re not the only ones. This is how much legal gambling has permeated our lives. And just like with the Stock Market, people only tell you when they win. This makes it seem like winning is a sure thing, but the house always wins.
If you ask a Singaporean if they are going to buy a car, they will respond sarcastically with “Ya, when I strike 4D!” (Strike means to win in Singlish and since I’m explaining, we say ya rather than yes or yeah).
Sometimes I feel a bit on the fringe, because I don’t know exactly how buying these tickets work. To be honest I have never been into gambling and I’m risk adverse. I never seem to win anything, anyway.
Also, the whole affair seems so tedious. Buying a ticket at lucky booths (where many have won big before) requires queuing for hours. And you need to do a bit of work when buying a ticket. Bad flashback to the multiple choice exams I took during the Cambridge O Levels, where you had to shade the correct boxes with a pencil to indicate your choice. With Toto and 4D, shade the wrong box and you’re disqualified. It’s all here if you want to know.
It’s only through researching this article and taking a peek at the website that I discovered one of the differences between 4D and Toto. In 4D you pick 4 numbers and in Toto, 6. The minimum betting amount is a dollar.
I just had to snap a shot of this super Singaporean activity indulged in by at least half the population every day. Maybe it’s a good thing that Singaporeans and Permanent Residents have to pay S$100 to enter the casinos.
With the craze for gambling here, I think they better stick to small bets. Although, my former colleague used to buy S$1000 worth of these small tickets each week. He would spread out a deck of cards and ask me to pick a few and that was how he chose his numbers. I was shocked one day when he passed me a plastic bag of his winnings to look after. He told me he won S$10,000 and it was in the bag. I had to pick my jaw off the ground. I am glad he won though, because he’s really generous. In my encounters with Singaporeans I find that those who bet big and win big also tend to be very generous and love to treat everyone with their winnings. This is also a part of being Singaporean. It’s not all bad.
To most Singaporeans who are miserable and distressed at work, these small bets give a bit of hope. A ticket out of their misery. Perhaps when they win big one day, they can finally fire their bad bosses. So now when you see a long queue outside the convenience store and people studiously colouring tickets, you’ll know why.