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Human error caused expensive Va. Lottery mistake

Virginia LotteryVirginia Lottery: Human error caused expensive Va. Lottery mistake

New Game Generated More Than 600 Winning Tickets

Debra and Raul Bennett are faithful lottery players, though in nearly 15 years of playing they never had won much more than pocket money.

So on Sunday, when the retired Hampton, Va., couple realized they had a winning ticket from the Virginia Lottery's brand-new Fast Play Super 7s game, they were ecstatic. Plans for spending the $7,777 — the game's top prize — came fast and furious.

But when the Bennetts went to the Hampton Virginia Lottery office Monday morning, there were at least a dozen other winners waiting to collect their $7,777 jackpots.

Lottery officials are saying that a human error caused the game to incorrectly spit out 609 winning tickets, leaving hundreds, including the Bennetts, frustrated and wanting their money.

"Other people started showing up with winning tickets also, and we said 'What is going on?'" Debra Bennett said. "Some people had three of them."

When the Bennetts' ticket was scanned, they were told by lottery workers that it was worth just $2.

If Virginia is forced to pay out all the Fast Play Super 7s jackpots, it could cost millions.

Virginia Lottery spokesman John Hagerty said that they are consulting with the Virginia Attorney General's Office to determine what legal responsibility the state lottery has regarding the erroneous tickets.

The Bennetts were already planning to fly their sons and families in for Thanksgiving, and the jackpot would not only have set them up with hotels and rental cars but also would have allowed the couple to fly out to Washington state to spend Christmas with their eldest son and infant granddaughter.

The Glitch That Rocked the Virginia Lotto

The $2 instant game is played by adding up a series of computer-generated numbers. The ticket holder wins money for each set of numbers that total seven, with the lowest prize being $2 for one seven, going up to the $7,777 grand prize for eight sevens.

Hagerty said the error was caught shortly after 9 a.m. on Sunday, just a few hours after Fast Play Super 7s debuted. The game was taken offline, after generating a total of 2,336 tickets, and has not yet been reinstated.

The error, he said, was made by an employee at GTECH, the largest lottery technology business in the world, when the game was being installed into the system.

Bob Vincent, GTECH's senior vice president for corporate affairs, confirmed it was a programming error, but declined to comment on the status of that worker's employment.

"We have identified it and corrected it," he said of the error.

Based in Providence, R.I., GTECH has contracts with 27 state lotteries and has a 70 percent market share worldwide. Each game, Vincent explained, has a software code that determines variations of the game and ensures random winners.

'They Need to Make it Right'

"We're asking our players to be patient and if they have one of those tickets to hang on to it," Hagerty said.

The Bennetts are not only hanging on to their ticket, they've got it locked away in a safe.

Debra Benett said she told her husband, a retired Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, that if they don't get their $7,777, she's through playing the Virginia Lottery.

"To us, it's a lot of money," she said. "They need to make it right."

Another player, Judy Waters, told ABC affiliate WVEC that she rushed back into the Virginia Beach gas station where she bought her winning ticket only to find out that, like the Bennetts, it was worth just $2.

"I don't see why it's my problem. I think that's their problem. I'm sorry you had a computer glitch, but stand by what it did," Waters told WVEC.

Hagerty couldn't say whether the Virginia Lottery would seek damages from GTECH, only that their top priority was to resolve the situation "fairly."

Last year, a New Mexico man filed suit against the Sandia Resort and Casino in Albuquerque after he was told his winning pull on a slot machine was a malfunction and he would not be awarded the nearly $1.6 million prize.

Also last year, a Pennsylvania man said he was denied the $102,000 that he won off a slot machine at the Philadelphia Park Casino after security officials told him the jackpot was caused by a flawed test the casino was running.

ABC News

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17 comments. Last comment 6 years ago by Kaptainess.
Page 1 of 2

United States
Member #58528
February 18, 2008
710 Posts
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Posted: October 22, 2008, 8:04 pm - IP Logged

The good will that paying all of the winners will bring to the Virginia lottery will be priceless.They couldn't purchase that kind of publicity at any price.Personaly,I think that GTECH should foot the bill.They could gain from the publicity,too.

    Avatar

    United States
    Member #10720
    January 23, 2005
    932 Posts
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    Posted: October 22, 2008, 8:16 pm - IP Logged

    It would cost them $47,366,193 to pay all of the tickets. They have to decide if that cost outweighs the cost of defending up to 600 lawsuits and the huge negative publicity. I wonder what they spend in advertising; paying on all these tickets would be a dramatic boost to their sales as others hope there's another big goof. Not paying will make not only the 600 or so winners very very very angry but trigger an unorganized boycott that may cost more in sales than what they save. It IS their error, and it's not one ticket like what happened in NY. Technically they don't have to pay any of them BUT if I were running the Lottery down there I'd do everything to not disappoint these people. After reading this I am even here in nj afraid to buy scratch-offs and if it looks like I won a big prize I will assume it's going to be only $2 and not get too excited until they verify it in Lawrenceville. Maybe they should ask me to do their programming next time.

      Dead_Aim's avatar - canstock2002989

      United States
      Member #6363
      August 20, 2004
      3078 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: October 22, 2008, 8:26 pm - IP Logged

      This situation should be treated no different than the law that says if a product is mis-priced you get it for the price listed on the product, otherwise it is false advertising. Those situations are caused by human error as well. Why should this be treated any different?

      Don't Chase... Compare and Narrow

      The Cheaper the Cost the Higher the Profit

      Many Winners to You.

      D_A

        MysteryMan424's avatar - batman22
        Pelham NY
        United States
        Member #60411
        April 16, 2008
        169 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: October 22, 2008, 8:48 pm - IP Logged

        Dey betta pay up else dey get paid a visit from Vinny Vella!

          RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
          mid-Ohio
          United States
          Member #9
          March 24, 2001
          17730 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: October 23, 2008, 10:43 am - IP Logged

          "Debra Benett said she told her husband, a retired Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, that if they don't get their $7,777, she's through playing the Virginia Lottery."

          Lotteries makes mistakes from time to time, people get mad and stop playing for a while but most of them soon forget and start playing again.  To most lottery players the chance to win a big prize for a one dollar bet is just too tempting to be avoided. 

          * you don't need more tickets * 
          * just the right ticket * 
             Wink 

            spy153's avatar - maren

            United States
            Member #28409
            December 15, 2005
            1198 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: October 23, 2008, 10:53 am - IP Logged

            Last year, a New Mexico man filed suit against the Sandia Resort and Casino in Albuquerque after he was told his winning pull on a slot machine was a malfunction and he would not be awarded the nearly $1.6 million prize.

            Also last year, a Pennsylvania man said he was denied the $102,000 that he won off a slot machine at the Philadelphia Park Casino after security officials told him the jackpot was caused by a flawed test the casino was running.

             

            I don't remember reading about these, but I feel if the comany was in error, they should pay up.  It is only right.

            voir-vous dans mes reves!Cool

              Bradly_60's avatar - disney37
              Atlantic Mine, Michigan
              United States
              Member #416
              June 23, 2002
              1614 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: October 23, 2008, 1:02 pm - IP Logged

              It would cost them $47,366,193 to pay all of the tickets. They have to decide if that cost outweighs the cost of defending up to 600 lawsuits and the huge negative publicity. I wonder what they spend in advertising; paying on all these tickets would be a dramatic boost to their sales as others hope there's another big goof. Not paying will make not only the 600 or so winners very very very angry but trigger an unorganized boycott that may cost more in sales than what they save. It IS their error, and it's not one ticket like what happened in NY. Technically they don't have to pay any of them BUT if I were running the Lottery down there I'd do everything to not disappoint these people. After reading this I am even here in nj afraid to buy scratch-offs and if it looks like I won a big prize I will assume it's going to be only $2 and not get too excited until they verify it in Lawrenceville. Maybe they should ask me to do their programming next time.

              Actually with only 609 winners with could only cost $4.7 Million if all the winners were of $7,777.  No $40m+.  Four million for a lottery isn't much, but I agree GTECH should foot some of the bill as well.

              Brad

                RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                mid-Ohio
                United States
                Member #9
                March 24, 2001
                17730 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: October 23, 2008, 9:38 pm - IP Logged

                The thing that bothers me is if the results were to be truly random why even if a mistake was make it produced so many combinations with that many sevens on start up.  If the program was designed to limit combinations with that many sevens and instead mistakenly set to produce more of them then the program was never random but could be set to simulate randomness and produce a fixed number of winners.

                * you don't need more tickets * 
                * just the right ticket * 
                   Wink 

                  Avatar

                  United States
                  Member #10720
                  January 23, 2005
                  932 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: October 23, 2008, 10:56 pm - IP Logged

                  Here is what I speculate happened, and this is only speculation:

                  I saw a picture of one of these tickets, it is NOT a scratch-off but a numbers-type game looking like a tic-tac-toe board printed on the ticket. A program was written that was to generate a field of prize slots ranging from nothing to the top prize. Many of them were supposed to be for $2 and a few for $77777, but the variable meant for printing $2 prizes was swapped or assigned to $77777. I am guessing that the only random thing is the PRIZE AMOUNT when a ticket adds up. So several had winning sets but it was meant to print $2 prize but instead it printed $77777 but actually another variable correctly assigned $2. The distribution ratio is not random but the individual selection is.

                  Simplified example of such a flawed program with the printed prize amt. crossed:

                  (random variable n)
                  if (bool winning==true)
                  {
                  if (n<3){print "$2";}
                  If (2<n<1500){print "$77777";}
                  }
                  else {print "LOSER!";}
                  //flag off n as being used

                  Apparently this game was computerized... and for a brief time a tremendous advantage for players!

                    ThatScaryChick's avatar - AbnSTiA

                    United States
                    Member #56506
                    November 21, 2007
                    4568 Posts
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                    Posted: October 23, 2008, 11:12 pm - IP Logged

                    Actually with only 609 winners with could only cost $4.7 Million if all the winners were of $7,777.  No $40m+.  Four million for a lottery isn't much, but I agree GTECH should foot some of the bill as well.

                    Brad

                    I agree. I think they should pay out the $4.7 million. Otherwise I can see some of those 600 people going to court over this.

                    "No one remembers the person who almost climbed the mountain, only the person who eventually gets to the top."

                      Avatar
                      Northern California
                      United States
                      Member #19948
                      August 9, 2005
                      146 Posts
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                      Posted: October 24, 2008, 11:12 am - IP Logged

                      The article is short on information...but it does say that a "human error" caused the malfunction.

                       

                      That makes it sound like the error was made by the system operator ... but data center people shouldn't be having anything to do with setting game parameters like those at issue here. That leads me to believe it was a programming error - the kind that would show up in any basic quality assurance test. Both GTECH and the State (VA likes ot operate their own system) should have caught this.

                      I don't know where people are getting their numbers from.

                      If ALL 2200 (or so) tickets were worth $7,777 the prize liability would be a little over 17 million bucks. If you take 1 in 4 (I don't know what the overall odds on the game were) - even if you project all of them at $7,777 you reach that 4 million liability zone (which you can't get close to since obviously very few of the prizes would be worth $7777)

                       

                      I get the argument about buying good will. But I also get the argument for only paying legitimate winners so that profits for your beneficiary aren't compromised and you don't face an ongoing deluge of people trying to cheat and then going public with a sob story about "they should pay anyway cuz they're the State and they have all that money".

                        spy153's avatar - maren

                        United States
                        Member #28409
                        December 15, 2005
                        1198 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: October 24, 2008, 8:34 pm - IP Logged

                        The thing that bothers me is if the results were to be truly random why even if a mistake was make it produced so many combinations with that many sevens on start up.  If the program was designed to limit combinations with that many sevens and instead mistakenly set to produce more of them then the program was never random but could be set to simulate randomness and produce a fixed number of winners.

                        by george, I think you finally got it !

                        voir-vous dans mes reves!Cool

                          Avatar

                          United States
                          Member #10720
                          January 23, 2005
                          932 Posts
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                          Posted: October 24, 2008, 9:13 pm - IP Logged

                          Sorry, it should be 4+ million, I was thinking 77777, not 7777. It said 609 of them had the incorrect printing of the top prize instead of $2. Am guessing that the odds of $2 were supposed to be 1 in 4 or such, that's what normally they'd be on such a game. Every $4 out yields $2 in winnings, a 50% takeout ratio as usual. Even then if it's 4MILL that supports my point all the more...just pay it, avoid the bad publicity.

                          What would happen if the opposite happened, what if people thought they only won $2 but actually it's $7777? would there be all the screaming? A few of the $2 would see "FILE CLAIM" and wonder why, and maybe 1 or 2 crooked clerks would.... you know!

                            Avatar
                            NY
                            United States
                            Member #23835
                            October 16, 2005
                            2829 Posts
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                            Posted: October 25, 2008, 2:05 am - IP Logged

                            The thing that bothers me is if the results were to be truly random why even if a mistake was make it produced so many combinations with that many sevens on start up.  If the program was designed to limit combinations with that many sevens and instead mistakenly set to produce more of them then the program was never random but could be set to simulate randomness and produce a fixed number of winners.

                            Why would that bother you? From the sound of it, this game was essentially a scratcher style game except that the tickets were printed on the spot. While it might be possible to design a similar game that worked with random results, there's no reason it has to work that way to be fair. The only thing that has to be random is the distribution of the winners.