[Editor: After reading the story, be sure to watch the video report that follows, which provides interesting interviews of the key individuals in this report.]
If you've been playing Texas Lotto lately, you may have been playing for less than you thought.
Texas Lottery officials admitted Friday they inflated their jackpot numbers on four separate occasions.
"I will be studying it very closely and clearly to be sure this doesn't happen again," Texas Lottery Commission Executive Director Reagan Greer said.
On June 8, officials advertised the Lotto Texas jackpot drawing at $8 million. An internal investigation afterward showed that officials knew ticket sales could only pay for a $6.5 million prize.
One lottery official said they used the higher estimate to keep players interested in the game.
"The big picture of what this is all focused on is that the Lotto Texas game, which has been around since the beginning of the lottery, is in trouble," Greer said. "We know it's in trouble because the ticket sales show us that."
Greer fielded questions from lottery commissioners in the first public meeting since the June 8th drawing.
As executive director, Greer signed off on the inflated estimates.
"If there's going to be a deviation from the numbers that are calculated, there has to be a very specific reason, and there has to be some very hard questions asked. It cannot be a system where you're just signing off on this," Texas Lottery Commissioner Rolando Olivera said.
Greer defended the estimates of the lottery commission.
"When you're looking at an estimate, an estimate three to five days ahead is a moving target," Greer said.
But Dawn Nettles with the watchdog group Texas Lotto Report disagreed.
"You can have a pretty close idea of what's going to be there. We want truth in advertising, we need consumer protections," Nettles said.
Shortly after the June 8, drawing Nettles filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General's Office, which looked into the complaint and then asked the Lottery Commission to conduct an internal investigation.
Nettles believes the inflated numbers were more than just a miscalculation.
"The reason they advertised $8 million is because they knew there wouldn't be a winner, and they figured nobody would know any better. The game is too difficult to win...They're only selling two million tickets but there are 47 million combinations," Nettles said.
The Texas Lottery Commission said the agency guarantees prize winners the advertised jackpot amount.
Nettles said that's part of the problem. She said the guarantee rule has resulted in numerous overpayments, and that since May 2003, lottery officials have overpaid winners by millions of dollars.
There was no word from the commissioners on what, if any, punishment Greer will face for signing off on the inflated jackpots.
Earlier this month, one of the Texas Lottery's financial directors resigned. According to public information officers, the resignation was over personal matters, not the jackpot controversey.