| KUALA LUMPUR
KUALA LUMPUR Some Malaysian shops selling lottery tickets and illegal gambling syndicates have rejected "hot" bets on numbers linked to the downing of a Malaysia Airlines airliner.
Da Ma Cai, Toto and Magnum outlets had stopped taking bets on the numbers 1717 and 777 since Friday, the Sunday Star said.
Flight MH17, a Boeing 777, was downed on July 17 over Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed.
"We are not the only ones rejecting the numbers," a worker at a Magnum outlet was quoted as saying. "Other outlets are also turning punters away."
A Reuters visit to Toto and Magnum outlets revealed 1717 was "sold out", meaning further bets were off.
Gambling is hugely popular in Malaysia but strictly controlled with the four-digit lottery a favorite. Many Asian gamblers believe that numbers associated with bad luck, such as car numbers at an accident site, will later bring good luck.
"The number 1717 has been sold out since yesterday. Too many people are buying," a cashier working at a Berjaya Sports Toto Bhd outlet said.
"It is not about bad taste or anything, it is just that too many people are buying the number," a cashier working with Magnum Bhd said, adding that the company would have to pay out too much if the number came up.
A member of an illegal syndicate also told the Star it had also stopped taking the bets because demand was so high.
"Any digit placed in front or behind the number 777 was also not accepted," the illegal syndicate member was quoted as saying. "This was the instruction from my boss."
(Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)