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Ghana bets on lotto forecasters

Lottery players seek advice on lucky numbers.

Ghanaian lottery forecaster William Galley, right, consults extensive charts to make a prediction about what will be the lucky numbers in the next day's lotto. Many who bet on the national lottery seek the advice of forecasters like Galley, and if they win they return to pay them "dash" or tips, equivalent to about 10 percent of their winnings. (Ken Maguire/GlobalPost)

ACCRA, Ghana — William Galley hasn’t always been a lottery “forecaster.” He used to lug concrete blocks around construction sites but he calls that work tedious.

“I use my brain to forecast,” he said.

Forecasters like Galley scratch out a living by trying to predict winning lottery numbers. It’s not quite the scam it appears to be. They believe, as do many players, that if they work hard to spot trends in past draws, they’ll be rewarded.

And in a country where workers earn $50 per month on average, the hope of even a small payout is enough to sustain the trade.

“Anything from your heart,” said Galley, a talkative 40-year-old father of two who is among the few cigarette-smoking Ghanaians. “I don’t charge. It’s a game of chance, so you can’t sell it to somebody, unless the person wishes to dash.”

A “dash” is a tip. To “stake” is to place a bet. You’re always welcome to “dash” up front although it’s more common to return and tip 10 percent if you win.

They acknowledge lottery is a game of chance — expensive machines randomly select numbers — but nonetheless pore over lists of winning numbers. They display their predictions on blackboards.

“The forecaster knows which numbers will come,” said Roland Apiiga, an occasional player. “Sometimes I run out of money. If I have money, then I will come.”

In downtown Accra, they come to a dirt lot near Makola Market lined with two-dozen lotto kiosks, small wooden structures painted green, yellow and red. Here is where they make their picks.

“We are researching the figures that will be drawn,” Galley explained one morning as he looked over a paper containing lists of winning draws as far back as the early 1960s. “It’s not easy. If you don’t make more research, how can you win?”

In Ghana’s fixed-odds daily game, players select five numbers between 1 and 90. Forecasters are happy to hit just two of the five, good for a decent payoff — enough to keep players coming back, anyway. It costs about 70 cents per ticket. Two winning numbers on a minimum bet nets the ticket-holder about $140. The jackpot for a minimum bet is about $25,000.

One forecaster who asked to withhold his name — so his wife doesn’t discover what he’s doing — explained how he picked winning numbers 54 and 1 in a draw five months ago.

Using the newspaper, he pointed to a row of winning numbers, including 54 and 1, from 1968. Then again in a 1996 draw — he circled them in red marker. That’s it. No discernible pattern, but that was the recommendation.