Still no Italy lottery winner as jackpot soars higher

Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:39pm EDT
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ROME (Reuters) - A betting frenzy among Italians is set to continue after the record-breaking state lottery again failed to produce a winner on Tuesday, sending the jackpot up to almost 144 million euros ($203.6 million).

No-one has picked the winning 6-number combination since January and the rising jackpot has tempted unprecedented numbers of Italians to take their place in queues for tickets at bars and tobacconists to try to land the life-changing prize.

The SuperEnalotto jackpot, at 143.9 million euros, is the biggest ever in Europe and has even drawn tourists from neighboring countries across Italy's borders to try their luck.

A phone-in contest in Germany offered the winners 140 free return airline tickets from Berlin to Milan's Malpensa airport to play the lottery, the popular daily Bild reported.

The jackpot has not been won since January 31, despite draws being held three times a week, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

However the SuperEnalotto already has one big winner -- the hard-pressed Italian Treasury, which has seen lottery money go some way to compensate for a slump in tax revenues as Italy grapples with its worst post-war recession.

The Treasury will keep about half of more than 2 billion euros of bets laid since the last jackpot in January.

The rest is paid out in winnings and divided between ticket vendors and lottery organizer Sisal SpA.

The SuperEnalotto fever saw monthly bets on the game rise to 441 million euros in July from a more usual 200 million euros as Italians, lured by the massive prize, are clearly happy to spare the minimum of one euro for a lottery ticket.

Betting rose a further 67.8 percent in the first half of August from the same period in July, and has risen 13.2 percent in the last week from the week before, Italian state television RAI reported on Tuesday.

<p>A man picks numbers for the "SuperEnalotto" state lottery at a betting shop in Milan August 6, 2009. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini</p>