A 28-year-old woman from Shaanxi province in China has fallen deeply into debt as a result of her addiction to lottery scratch cards. Xiaofu admitted to spending 17,000 yuan (US$2,300) on scratch tickets in a single day at the height of her addiction. Over the span of three months, she managed to accumulate 250,000 yuan (US$34,000) in debts.
The popularity of scratch cards in China has surged in the past two years because they are affordable, simple to purchase, and require no special skills. According to China’s finance ministry, the mainland public spent 428.5 billion yuan (US$58.7 billion) on the lottery from January to September 2023, marking a 55% increase from the previous year. Instant scratch cards alone generated 86.8 billion yuan with an 80.7% increase in the first nine months of 2023.
Xiaofu’s tale reflects a larger cultural phenomenon, wherein young people buy scratch cards for themselves and even use them as gifts for friends or wedding presents. Online live-streaming events have even emerged where people watch one another scratch to win. On the social media site Douyin, the hashtag #guaguale, which translates to “scratch lottery” in Chinese, has garnered 9 billion views.
Xiaofu’s descent into addiction began innocently enough when a friend introduced her to the “little hobby” in August. However, her habit quickly escalated, and she went on to spend an escalating amount of money on scratch cards. At the peak of her addiction, she was buying a dozen books of cards a day.
The consequences of her addiction became all too real when her debts reached 250,000 yuan. Despite her attempts to rationalize her behavior, Xiaofu acknowledged that she had become a problem gambler. Her realization led her to find a new job to help pay off her debts. Her story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of addiction and the devastating impact it can have on one’s life.