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A man places his bet at a Play Whe booth on the St Augustine Main Road yesterday.

The odds had been stacked against them for nearly three months, but yesterday, gamblers breathed a sigh of relief when the majority of National Lotteries Control Board operators resumed business.

Despite many missing the mark, players said they were happy for a chance to hit the jackpot once more.

According to one player who was captured outside a lottery booth on Keith Street, San Fernando, “I don’t win but I like the excitement, the amusement nah.”

Just before midday yesterday, a team from Guardian Media captured Abedie Cox hustling to “play a mark” at a booth in Carenage.

“I’d like 2 dollars on 6, belly, 2 dollars on 14, money, and 2 dollars on 18, water boat…thank you, you know how long I waiting to come out the house and play some Play Whe.”

Cox said he had waited months to try and cash in on the NLCB games again.

“My belly hungry, I want money and water going and fall, we in Carenage.”

Cox may have had all the compelling signs, but not the luck when the midday draw rolled around and 20, Dog, had played.

Yesterday marked the return of hope and anxiety for lottery players, as NLCB booths and centres reopened after operations were suspended as part of the Government’s measure to stem the spread of COVID-19. For some, playing a mark meant more to them now than ever before.

“The poor man could still get something because how the country lockdown under the COVID virus, it is real pressure, things hard too bad out here,” one man said,

But while players rolled in the excitement, some lottery agents languished in COVID’s backlash.

According to Lotto Agents Committee chairman Dean Persad, about 30 per cent of agents were unable to resume operations, labelling yesterday’s reopening as bittersweet.

Yesterday, the T&T Guardian reported exclusively that close to half of the 2,400 lottery operators would not have been able to open after some 150 of them used money obtained collected from bets and games and failed to pay the NLCB.

The sum totalled $6 million.

Instead, they used the money to pay rent, bills and survive during the months they were not allowed to work, according to Persad.

Persad again called for a lifeline and intervention from the authorities.

“We asking the NLCB to reactive agents machines so they can make a living. Assuming agents get $4,000, as Mr Nancis said, the (agents) will now be able to give $1,000 a week to NLCB, he will have $3,000 for himself and NLCB will have $30-40,000 for itself and payment towards their loan.”

The NLCB is threatening legal action against lottery agents.

NLCB chairman Eustace Nancis has said the board is not a “slush fund” and demanded the agents repay the money.