5, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 22
Luckiest Geek in China
engineer in Nanjing logs onto Jackpot.com and emerges with the grand prize
of $1 million
By ISABELLA NG Nanjing
ALSO IN TIME
the world is becoming borderless. And yes, the Internet exists in a place
where national boundaries are all but meaningless. Yet still, it takes
some getting used to the idea that a mainland Chinese engineer can suddenly
score a cool $1 million in a cyberjackpot. Not that Wang Xun himself is
all that fazed. For one thing, he's a dedicated Internet junkie. For four
weeks he had been visiting Jackpot.com from his squalid home in the city
of Nanjing, looking for tips to apply to his own financial-advisory website.
While he was at it, he decided to download the site's slot machine and
wheel it for fun and fortune.
edition's table of contents
After more than 10 tries, Wang, 23, came up a winner. Not your basic here's
your 10%-off-coupon or your free-DVD kind of winner. But the big enchilada,
the guy who takes home the million bucks. Not bad for a fellow who earns
$4,500 a year. "It's simply magic," says Wang. "The day before, I had
told my girlfriend that I wanted to earn my 1 million renminbi (about
$120,000) before turning 30," gushes Wang. "The dream came true seven
So now what? Wang already received $510,000 of his prize but it got whittled
down to $321,000 after the U.S. government took its 37% tax bite. That
ain't chicken feed in a city where annual per-capita income averages $1,200.
"This is 71 years of my annual income," says Wang.
The boyish engineer might want to share some with his parents, who gave
him his first computer four years ago when he entered one of Nanjing's
top universities. Wang logged onto the Net for the first time in 1996
when the city's first Internet service provider debuted. He soon got hooked.
He went into business part-time and started designing websites and banner
advertisements for online clients. He also created his own website, Moneymaker.
com, offering tips on how to make it rich. Somehow his research took him
to Jackpot.com, a U.S.-based gaming website that was launched in April.
By playing the slot machine, he won a few small prizes-10 checks worth
$65 in total. And then magic struck-the online slot machine displayed
three identical icons, each saying PAY MY BILLS. A window popped up announcing
Wang as the grand-prize winner. He stared at the screen with his mouth
agape. "I could feel my heart pounding," says Wang. Within four hours,
Jackpot.com staffers, who seemed to be as surprised as he was, sent him
a congratulatory e-mail. "You know this is truly global," says Victor
Carlson, the online gaming company's senior vice president. Just moments
earlier, someone from the American state of Utah had won a DVD at the
site. Gushes Carlson:"What a difference 10 seconds make!"
China has no problem allowing its citizens to rake in such riches. The
American side initially wasn't so confident. Jackpot.com eventually had
to consult the U.S. State Department for assurances that it could grant
such a prize to a mainland Chinese citizen without legal hassles. Wang's
parents and friends flipped, naturally. And he was immediately pursued
by Chinese reporters who got his phone number through contacts in the
local police department.
So you want to be a Chinese millionaire? The first thing you do, if you're
Wang Xun, is buy a car and get a U.S.-dollar credit card for online purchases.
Wang's ultimate goal is to travel to the U.S. to study business management.
"I have some knowledge about the Internet," he says. "Now it's time to
get into the real business world. "Watching Wang study the map of America
he has pinned to his bedroom wall, you feel somehow that winning the jackpot
was just the beginning.
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