Still smarting from the sting of a massive security scandal, Indiana Lottery officials are making a claim that computerized drawings actually improve security over traditional lottery drawings conducted with a mechanical ball machine.
Hoosier Lottery winning numbers are no longer determined by white balls plucked from a whirling mass inside a wire cage.
Now, winning numbers for Hoosier Lotto and daily games are picked in an office room, from a computer inside a black box secured with red, tamper-evident ties.
According to Indiana Lottery officials, the blowing balls, though entertaining to watch, aren't as secure as the computerized random number generator.
"More and more, the cost of providing the security and audit staff to oversee manual lottery draws is becoming excessive," reports New Jersey-based Gaming Laboratories International in a May letter to the Hoosier Lottery. The lottery had asked the company to certify its machine and make sure its random number computer was, indeed, random and fair.
The problem with the ping-pong-like balls: All the balls need to be uniform, so if anything like oil or sticky stuff gets on one of them, that changes the odds. Also, the ball blower needs to reach full speed to make sure all the balls get tossed around.
For the past three years for the Hoosier Lottery, drawing numbers has been high-tech — and secured through a multistep process that involves a security official conducting the draw under the watchful eye of an independent auditor.
The process for the midday draw starts about 12:45 p.m., when an auditor from Deloitte and Touche arrives and is escorted into the security room. On this day, it's Angela Cavanaugh, who, along with security official Amy Fishburn, inspects the red tamper-evident ties on the locked black computer box to make sure no one has opened the vault since the evening draw the night before.
A couple of minutes later, Fishburn cuts the red ties, opens the black box and pulls out a computer keyboard. She shakes a brown pea shake and rolls either the No. 1 red die or the No. 2 red die, which indicates which computer server will be used for the number pick.
Fishburn runs tests on the computer and makes sure the printer works as the auditor makes sure no unauthorized programs have been installed.
Then, they wait until the prize payment office downstairs calls to say the games are closed. That call comes about 1:20 p.m., and both Fishburn and the auditor separately talk to prize payment officials.
In about five minutes, with a click of the mouse button, Fishburn calls up winning numbers for the Daily 3 game, the Daily 4 game and Lucky 5.
The winning numbers are recorded by both watchers and faxed to media outlets and the prize payment center.
A video camera records the entire process.
Hoosier Lottery Executive Director Esther Q. Schneider said she'd be glad to televise these draws, except that the lottery can't afford to buy the time -- and television executives aren't interested in showing such boring programming for free.
But of course nothing can physically record the inner-workings of the computer, so with any televised broadcast of a Hoosier Lottery drawing, viewers would not be watching the actually drawing, only the computer operators as the click the mouse. Opponents of computerized drawings say this lack of transparency in the drawings are what cause player mistrust.
Many players do not like the new way of picking numbers. In fact, former state Rep. Robert Alderman, a Republican from Fort Wayne, wrote a letter to the lottery last year questioning the change. He said he doesn't believe the computers are truly random.
He sponsored legislation this year, which to many players' dismay didn't get very far, to make the lottery switch back to the balls.
Editor: Lottery Post encourages all lottery players to become familiar with the issue of computerized drawings. Even though several state lotteries have moved to computerized drawings, they may not be working in your best interest. The average lottery player has no idea how the numbers are selected, and we think if they did, they would be outraged.
You can learn more at the Petition for True Lottery Drawings on this web site.