Haitians Use N.Y. Numbers For Lottery Of Their Dreams
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haitians are dreaming their way to riches, and it's all thanks to the New York State Lottery.
Each evening, thousands of Haitians place bets at borlettes, the gaudily painted lottery outlets found on nearly every block towns and along country roads.
Each morning, they wake up to find the winning numbers - which are New York's, drawn the night before and beamed into Haiti by television.
And as likely as not, they picked their numbers in their dreams.
"Haitians dream about the lottery because they are superstitious," said Alain Steide, a vendor at Chez Toto borlette shop on downtown Dessalines Boulevard.
Most shops offer guides to dreams and lottery numbers, a "tchala" dictionary in which customers match the subjects of their dreams to corresponding numbers.
"When someone dreams about a TV or a chair, there's a number there for you," Steide said, bringing out his own well-thumbed dictionary.
It's on TV; it must be OK
Haitians use the New York State Lottery's "Daily Number" and "Pick Four" draws because the televised drawings ensure that "it's a clean game," Steide said.
Haiti used to rely on Venezuela's national lottery, until someone discovered that the organizers were ripping off customers by switching numbers. Television ensures accuracy in New York's case.
Borlettes also offer the neighboring Dominican Republic's lottery, but that's drawn only on Sundays. Haiti's own biweekly
national lottery is on hold until the government installs its own electronic drawing machine.
Previous military governments ran corrupt national lotteries, and many private lottery chain owners befriended the military rulers. The owner of the Celeste lottery chain, Jean-Jean Bastien, financed the feared paramilitary group FRAPH, whom Haitians blame for hundreds of killing under military rule 1991-94. Bastien was killed while the soldiers were in power.
The government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who returned a year ago, doesn't get receipts from the private lottery, but it does charge $5 for each tablet of betting slips and shop owners a $150 annual license.
Two out of three ain't bad
Haitians may use New York's numbers, but the similarity ends there. Haitian lottery players can win by picking the last two or all three digits in the New York "Daily Number," which requires New Yorkers to correctly pick a three-digit number.
Haitians also can win by betting on the order of numbers in the "Pick Four," which requires New Yorkers to guess a four-digit number.
Then there's the uniquely Haitian "mariage," or marriage, in which the bettor weds pairs of numbers, hoping New York's will include them.
Bets vary between two and 200 gourdes - 13 cents to $13. A winning $13 bet wedding pairs could bring as much as $1,330.
Since everyone knows someone who has won, however small the amount, there's always room for hope.
At Chez Polo Bank in La Saline slum, Raymond Huit was betting on the same numbers he uses every night. He has never won.
Still, "this is the number I follow," he said, folding up his betting slip and stepping out the door.
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