Economic crunch forces HCMC lottery vendors to sneak out for a living

By Diep Phan   October 23, 2021 | 04:00 am GMT-8
Tran Thi Le carefully put her Covid negative test result and proof of vaccination into her fanny pack before taking the risk of selling lottery tickets on the street.

She sold only 30 tickets Thursday morning. At midday, the 52-year-old crouched in the shade of a tree on Nguyen Van Tang Street, Thu Duc City, holding a stack of lottery tickets and waving to the passerby. But after 30 minutes, she had failed to sell any and hopped on her bicycle to relocate.

In Mekong Delta provinces, lottery ticket sellers who have been vaccinated are allowed to operate again. However, in Ho Chi Minh City, lottery tickets are only sold by retailers.

"I know I am not allowed to do so and there is still a risk of infection, but I hoped to earn some money to buy food," she said.

Tran Thi Le stands on one side of Le Van Viet Street, Thu Duc City, to sell lottery ticket on Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Tran Thi Le stands on one side of Le Van Viet Street, Thu Duc City, to sell lottery tickets, Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Le is among many lottery ticket vendors in the city who have ducked out to try make a living.

More than 12,000 lottery ticket sellers across the southern metropolis have been unemployed since July when the city halted all lottery services. As the Covid situation in Vietnam gradually improved, southern provinces were asked to resume lottery service, the livelihood of many. Lottery firms in Binh Duong, Vinh Long and Tra Vinh provinces draw their first prize Friday and HCMC, on Saturday.

Le and her two children remained in HCMC during the stormy days of the Covid-19 pandemic. With little savings, her family survived the semi lockdown on rice and charitable food donations.

Her landlord agreed to reduce rent by half during the month-long social distancing period, but started charging the full rate since the beginning of this month. Although her family had thrice received the city subsidy, it didn’t last long.

Hearing the news that the lottery would resume, Le was so happy she couldn't sleep. Even though she had been fully vaccinated, three days ago, she still went to the hospital near her home to get tested for Covid, thinking she would be able to go out selling lottery tickets again with both documents in hand.

But she found the reopening only applied to retailers. After some thinking, she decided to take 150 tickets, way less than the normal amount, and sneak outside.

"Many of my friends have not dared sell lottery tickets for fear of cross infection. But I risked doing so and hope things don't go south."

Lottery ticket sellers are classified among the four groups most affected by the pandemic. During a meeting with officials from Thu Duc City and districts earlier this week, Chairman of HCMC People's Committee Phan Van Mai proposed to look into letting lottery ticket sellers resume work, stating it would open more jobs and increase income.

Tran Thi Nhuong (R) sits on the sidewalk of Le Van Viet Street, Thu Duc City, to sell lottery ticket on the morning of Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Tran Thi Nhuong (R) sits on the sidewalk of Le Van Viet Street, Thu Duc City, to sell lottery ticket on the morning of Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Le is not alone in her plight. Tran Thi Nhuong, 60, also put her vaccination proof in her coat pocket the night before she decided head back onto the road.

She said the biggest challenge for her is not having enough capital. On Thursday morning, she put a small chair on the sidewalk of Le Van Viet Street, Thu Duc City, and started selling tickets. She strictly adheres to pandemic prevention. Every time she serves customers, she disinfects her hands with sanitizer.

But not long after, local officials came to warn her, saying lottery ticket vendors were not allowed to operate.

"Now, if I want to sell lottery tickets, I need to rent a space. but I don't have the money to get the tickets already, how will I be able to rent a premises."

Nguyen Hoa, a customer who just bought two lottery tickets, added: "I’ve had the habit of buying lottery tickets for many years. I usually buy from someone walking down the street."

Xuan Thy sits on a bench to rest after selling out all lottery tickets on Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Xuan Thy takes a rest after selling all her lottery tickets, Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan

Contrary to Le and Nhu, Xuan Thy, 50, from Binh Thanh District, decided to sell lottery tickets at night, managing to shift 150 in total.

Thy, fully jabbed, makes sure to keep a safe operating distance and sanitize after every transaction. Her husband, also a lottery ticket vendor, is disabled, meaning the family has had little income for many months.

Early in the morning, she visited a few markets, restaurants and shops.

"Someone saw me from afar and waved their hands right away, some said they stopped buying lottery tickets because they are also struggling financially. Others said they would only help me out this once," she said.

"I'm very happy I managed to sell all my tickets today. But I don't know how things will turn out tomorrow."

 
 
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