BEIJING (Reuters) - Taking on odds that only gamblers could stomach, the chances of winning in Beijing's monthly car registration lottery are no better than hitting a number on a spin of the roulette wheel.
The only way to get a registration is through the lottery, and without one, Beijing residents cannot buy a new car.
As a result, city dwellers are flocking to the lottery in larger numbers to try their luck on a new car registration, which the city started restricting in January as part of efforts to control worsening pollution and traffic congestion.
In the computerized lottery held this week in the capital, only 17,555 out of a total of 614,441 applicants won the right to register cars.
That means the odds have fallen to 35-1 -- about the same as scoring on the roulette table -- compared with 11-1 in January.
In 2009, China eclipsed the United States as the world's top auto market, but its booming car culture is also causing havoc in major cities.
Efforts to contain congestion in Beijing, which is projected to have 7 million vehicles on the road by 2012, have drawn criticism from potential car buyers as well as automakers that have been counting on Beijing as one of their key markets.
Now, lottery winners who do not buy a car are being targeted for "wasting" their hard-won quota.
So far, 30,000 lottery winners have yet to make the purchase, the Global Times tabloid on Thursday said, citing Zhao Zhengyang, an official with Beijing's transportation commission.
Zhao threatened to release the names of those who had forfeited the right to buy a car within a six-month deadline, but declined say whether those licenses would be added to the next lottery pool, the report said.
Reporting by Ken Wills; Editing by Daniel Magnowski