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Lottery players learn tough lessons

Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Lottery players learn tough lessons

When Chris Ramesar plays the Florida lottery, sometimes he gets a warning from his 8-year-old daughter, Gabriela.

"Daddy," she says, "remember what happened in New York?"

Ramesar is a 57-year-old co-owner of an auto body shop in Miami. He is thousands of miles and more than a decade removed from the day he found out his lucky numbers had come up in the New York Lottery.

But he hasn't forgotten what happened, or the lesson he eventually learned — that it is very hard to sue the Lottery successfully.

"I still think about it," he said in a telephone interview.

In 1993, Ramesar was working as a limousine driver in New York City. On July 17, the numbers he had always played in his weekly lottery subscription — 21, 26, 28, 37, 50 and 54 — came up in the Lotto Pick Six contest. The jackpot: $10 million.

He called his family. He bought roses and headed over to a jewelry manufacturer on 47th Street, where his wife, Maria, worked.

"My mother called me at work," Maria recalled. "She said, 'My goodness, how is my little millionaire?' "

The jubilation lasted until a lawyer representing the family called to inquire about collecting the jackpot. A Lottery official told him there was no record of a winning ticket.

That's when Ramesar learned that his application for a weekly subscription to the Lottery had not been processed, even though he had mailed it two months previously.

Lottery players may enroll in pre-paid weekly subscriptions that play the same numbers. The subscriptions become active after the player is sent a confirmation of receipt. The confirmation indicates the date on which the subscription will begin.

Ramesar mailed his application on May 7 but did not receive a confirmation of receipt until July 28, 11 days after the winning numbers were picked, according to court documents.

In the court papers, a Lottery official said applications are usually processed and entered into the Lottery's computer files within one to two days of receipt. Current subscription forms say to allow at least 10 working days "for processing."

In court documents, Ramesar said he had called the Lottery office in June and had been told he should soon receive confirmation that his application had been processed. The delay, it appeared, was caused in part because the Lottery's headquarters were being moved from Albany to Schenectady.

Ramesar sued in the state Court of Claims, which handles civil litigation seeking damages against the state. The court handles about 1,500 claims a year, few of them directed at the Lottery. Only 19 Lottery-related claims were returned when court officials at the Poughkeepsie Journal's request performed a search of the computer archive, which dates back about 20 years. The court maintains an online database of decisions that began in March 2000.

Not all claims are from wannabe winners. Some relate to contracts between the state and vendors who sell the tickets.

Ramesar sued, claiming breach of contract and negligence. In dismissing the case, Judge Louis C. Benza cited Lottery regulations that stipulate winning tickets are bearer instruments.

"It's like losing a dollar bill," said senior Court of Claims attorney Kevin Macdonald. "It's nice you had it, but if you don't have it, who knows if you did?"

The regulations also limit the state's liability in disputes — the Lottery director is subject only to refunding the player's entry cost.

"The rules and regulations governing operation of the Lottery contain provisions which so severely limit a player's remedy in the event of disputes about winning tickets as to effectively immunize the state from liability in this regard," Benza wrote.

One Long Island man found another way around those regulations to claim his share of a $70 million jackpot. On May 31, 1997, Howard Reid of Hempstead purchased 26 Lotto cards with 10 games each using $500 he had won just a few days earlier playing Lotto.

Four winning tickets came out of the drawing, one of which Reid had purchased. But before he realized he had won, Reid tore up his tickets and threw them away.

He realized his mistake after reading that one of the tickets had been purchased in the same store in which he had bought his. He checked his Lotto card, the one he used to make his entry, and found the winning numbers. He then went to retrieve the torn-up tickets, but his wife had already taken out the garbage. The tickets were gone, strewn somewhere at a dump in Westbury.

When Reid sought advice from lawyers, one suggested finding a legislative remedy.

"It's simple," said Reid's attorney, Jerrold Parker of the Great Neck law firm Parker & Waichman LLP. "If the law says you can't do something and you want to do something, you've got to change the law."

With help from state Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, and a lobbying firm, Parker and Reid managed to get the Legislature to pass a bill that would allow the state to award a "Lotto" prize to a claimant without a winning ticket. The winner would have to produce what is now referred to as a "perfected" claim. Such a claim would have to be accompanied by:

  • A copy of a claim validation report showing that the original winning ticket was produced by the online Lottery computer system at the correct time and place.
  • Play cards bearing the winning number combinations.
  • A written statement from the licensed Lottery sales agent stating that the agent believes the missing ticket was sold to the claimant.
  • A written statement explaining the circumstances under which the winning ticket was lost.
  • A filing fee of $100.

Pataki vetoed the measure twice, citing technicalities. But on Aug. 31, 1999, Reid's luck turned when Pataki signed the bill into law. Reid was awarded $7.4 million. After taxes and lawyer fees, he reportedly took home $2 million and moved upstate.

"The guy really did win the Lottery," Parker said. "He had absolute proof he had won. Even the Lottery system didn't contest it."

In his auto body shop in Miami, Ramesar keeps a news clipping of Reid's story. Ramesar, the former limousine drive, likes to point out that Reid was a taxi driver.

After he lost in the Court of Claims, Ramesar appealed twice. Both times, Benza's decision was upheld.

"Am I bitter?" Ramesar said. "I am kind of a little bit upset with the state. I was a loyal player. But I've moved on with my life. I own my own business. We're financially secure. My happiness is with my daughter."

The Journal News

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17 comments. Last comment 10 years ago by KY Floyd.
Page 1 of 2
MissNYC's avatar - diva
Westchester, New York
United States
Member #49345
January 27, 2007
168 Posts
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Posted: January 30, 2007, 3:46 pm - IP Logged

Wow, that is terrible! I feel bad for Ramesar, because the fault was on the lottery, they should have given him something based on when the subscription was submitted. That's just wrong. As far as Howard Reid, that is his fault entirely. Of course no one ever believes they have the winning ticket, but to tear them up before checking for even smaller prizes? I'm sure he can now think of 70 million reasons not to do that...ever.

    sirbrad's avatar - Lottery-062.jpg
    PA
    United States
    Member #22983
    October 6, 2005
    2226 Posts
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    Posted: January 30, 2007, 4:11 pm - IP Logged

    Another lottery scam, nice. They purposely dilly-dally and he is the one who has to pay for it.

      justxploring's avatar - villiarna
      Wandering Aimlessly
      United States
      Member #25360
      November 5, 2005
      4461 Posts
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      Posted: January 30, 2007, 5:47 pm - IP Logged

      Sorry, I disagree with the 2 comments posted here.

      Unless I am reading this incorrectly, someone mailed an application and never received any type of confirmation until 11 days AFTER he won?  Sounds very suspicious to me.  First of all, I don't see stated anywhere in this article how he paid for these drawings.  You don't send cash through the mail, so did they cash his check?  Did they charge the amount to a credit card?  If so, the lottery is liable.  If I didn't get a canceled check within 10 days, I'd wonder.  It took less time for me to get my tax return from the IRS last year.  Again, I think this man is lying.  Why wouldn't he go into a store if he's a regular player and just purchase a season ticket over-the-counter?  Who plays the lottery by mail? 

       pre-paid weekly subscriptions

      I'm confused.  The winning numbers came up months later. So how many weeks did he purchase?  How could he go out and celebrate without a ticket or even a receipt?  Tell me, am I missing something here? Honestly, maybe I've had a rough day and don't get it.

      He then went to retrieve the torn-up tickets, but his wife had already taken out the garbage. The tickets were gone, strewn somewhere at a dump in Westbury.

      Puhleeeze!! The man who tore up his tickets did not deserve anything either.  Who buys tickets and tosses them in the trash and then expects to collect his winnings?  Give me a break!  I have been betting the same numbers for many, many years (over 12 in Florida) and let's say I fell asleep on Sat night and didn't play them. Does the state owe me anything?  If I did buy them, but I left them in my pants pocket and did the laundry with fabric softener and added bleach....ooops! 

      Both of these cases are not lottery scams IMHO.  They are examples of irresponsible people gambling and then not accepting accountability for doing something stupid. 

        Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
        Zeta Reticuli Star System
        United States
        Member #30470
        January 17, 2006
        10350 Posts
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        Posted: January 30, 2007, 7:21 pm - IP Logged

        I don't know, Justxploring...the article does mention that his ticket didn't get entered as it was during the time the offices were moving from Albany to Schenectady:

         In court documents, Ramesar said he had called the Lottery office in June and had been told he should soon receive confirmation that his application had been processed. The delay, it appeared, was caused in part because the Lottery's headquarters were being moved from Albany to Schenectady.

        If you were a lottery commission supervisor, wouldn't you have made sure somethuing like subscription tickets were taken care of and entered before such a move? 

        Maybe it did get lost or sit on someone's desk or something, but still....letters are postmarked, right?  If it was postmarked before early enough before the draw, and paid for, if that was the case, the NY Lotto should have paid him to avoid adverse PR. All this kind of thing does is leave people saying, "See, even if you win, you don't win..."

        Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any.

        Lep

        There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.

          Avatar

          United States
          Member #10720
          January 23, 2005
          933 Posts
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          Posted: January 30, 2007, 7:23 pm - IP Logged

          One thing, on the NY Lotto I think it only lets you do 2 drawings ahead. There is no mark on the betslip for multiple drawings at all so you have to tell the Agent "I want this for Saturday AND Wednesday".

          This story is a reason why I am leery of the online play, because the person at the other end has to go buy the tickets (at least for PB or MM, I have other theories about the other games). What if they don't get there in time or fill out wrong numbers? Remember the stacks of manually filled-out betslips I saw at a store in PA.

            Rick G's avatar - avatar 1766.jpg
            FEMA Region V Camp #21
            United States
            Member #520
            July 27, 2002
            5699 Posts
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            Posted: January 30, 2007, 7:55 pm - IP Logged

            One thing, on the NY Lotto I think it only lets you do 2 drawings ahead. There is no mark on the betslip for multiple drawings at all so you have to tell the Agent "I want this for Saturday AND Wednesday".

            This story is a reason why I am leery of the online play, because the person at the other end has to go buy the tickets (at least for PB or MM, I have other theories about the other games). What if they don't get there in time or fill out wrong numbers? Remember the stacks of manually filled-out betslips I saw at a store in PA.

            LckyLary,

            This type of subscription service is run by the individual state lottery, not an independent online service and subscriptions can be purchased through the state lottery website for a period of time.  In IL I think it goes up to six months.  It's different than purchasing advance draws from the lottery agent, which is as you say, only a week's worth of advance tickets.

            ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

             

            The man's subscription tickets should have been active from the first drawing after the credit purchase had been transacted or the check had cleared the bank.  Both transactions are verifiable by records.  In no case (moving offices or not) does a transaction like this take over six weeks to process.  It seems NY was slow in processing the order.  This was not the fault of the purchaser.  If the money was collected, as indicated by his June phone call, then the tickets should have been in play.  Their insistence on issuing a confirmation letter before the account was activated is lame, especially if such a confirmation letter can take six weeks or more to be sent.

            This is disturbing for the integrity of the NY Lottery and for subscription buyers in general.  After reading this story I wouldn't even consider purchasing a subscription.  It doesn't take that long to purchase a lottery ticket at the store and have the ticket in your hands.

            The New York Lottery and the Judge presiding over the case dropped the ball on this one.  An honest lottery and a fair judge would have paid the man if the payment was processed weeks before the drawing.

            Posted 4/6:  IL Pick 3 midday and evening until they hit:  555, 347 (str8).


              time*treat's avatar - radar

              United States
              Member #13130
              March 30, 2005
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              Posted: January 30, 2007, 8:55 pm - IP Logged

              "Reid was awarded $7.4 million. After taxes and lawyer fees, he reportedly took home $2 million"

              That's quite a haircut. Yikes! 

              In neo-conned Amerika, bank robs you.
              Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be the name of a convenience store, not a govnoment agency.

                TheGameGrl's avatar - character catafly.jpg
                A long and winding road
                United States
                Member #17084
                June 10, 2005
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                Posted: January 30, 2007, 9:14 pm - IP Logged

                Lottery subscriptions are contingent on the regulations as they stand at the time of issuants.

                If NY Lottery had a loop hole on their side its the supposed confirmation letter.

                There are many reasons for a state to allow mail in lottery subscriptions. One is: It helps those who cant drive or have weekly access to an area that has terminals. Take those that are shut ins YET still enjoy playing. Its actually another means for the state run lottery to collect a guaranteed percentage of sales each week. I disagree with the *preseumption* that terminals are everywhere in a state and easy to access, so just go there and play.. The folks in the mountainous areas of NY do not have the luxury as metro areas do to a terminal.  Sometimes they are snowed in and prefer the subscription. The bottom line is simple, if the check cleared prior to the play dates indicated then the Lottery is held accountable to some extent for not processing after the funds had been cashed. A Phone call isnt a form of validation that the funds were deposited. What is? A canceled check or a credit charge on ones statement.  Whether the office was moving or not, the data base can be accessed by lottery employees. Its the server that contains the information. Most state lotteries have strict provisions to back up its data for just this very circumstance. The only *pause* that can delay entry is power outageous in the area , mail delivery being cut off from the PO box that the subscription might go to, or a system glitch. Which wasnt indicated in the article...

                I feel for anyone going up against the lottery ...

                ~~Is it true, Is it kind,Is it necessary. ~~~

                 Thanks be to the giving numbers: 1621,912,119 02014

                  Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
                  Zeta Reticuli Star System
                  United States
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                  January 17, 2006
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                  Posted: January 30, 2007, 10:02 pm - IP Logged

                  From the Illinois Lottery website subscriptions page:

                   Lotto (Drawings are Mon., Wed., and Sat. ) 

                  HOW TO START A LOTTERY SUBSCRIPTION

                  Lotto

                  1. Choose the number of Plays you want -- 2,4,6,8 or 10. Two plays are only $1.00.

                  2. Pick six numbers from 1 to 52 for each play. Or choose Quick Pick, and let the computer randomly draw your numbers. (See, you don't have to lift a finger.)

                  3. Choose the number of drawings you wish to enter -- 39, 78 or 156. Your numbers will be entered in all Lotto drawings during that time period.)

                  4. Call 1-800-PLAY-LOTTO

                  (there is also a link to a pdf download form online)

                  Use VISA or Mastercard, or mail a check or money order. We'll send you a confirmation of your Lotto numbers and the starting date of your drawings in approximately two weeks.

                  Little Lotto

                  1. Choose the number of plays you want. You can play up to ten games each drawing with your subscription. Each play costs $1.00.

                  2. Pick five numbers from 1 to 39. Or you can choose a Quick Pick, and let the computer draw random numbers for you.

                  3. Pick the number of drawings you want to play. Your subscription can cover 91, 182 or 364 drawings.

                  4. Call 1-800-PLAY LOTTO

                  5. Use your VISA or MASTERCARD. Confirmation of your Little Lotto numbers and start date for your subscription will be mailed in approximately two weeks.

                    Subscribers must have an Illinois mailing address to participate in the subscription program.


                  Then it's the same thing, a link to a pdf file for a form to mail in and the snail mail address.

                  http://www.illinoislottery.com/subsections/Subscrip.htm

                   ____________________________________________

                   

                  For lotto, 13, 78, or 156 drawings is 13, 26, or 52 weeks.

                  For Little Lotto, since it's drawn daily, seven days a week, the choices come out to 3, 6, or 12 months (note the last one is 364 days, not 365).

                  I've been getting  the winners list e-mail for Illinois Little Lotto for over two years. In that time I think I've seen 3 subscription winners hit the 5 for 5 top prize.  Not really anything to brag about.

                  From a "tin-hat" basis, I'm almost wondering if when you play a subscription ticket you're "programming" the Little Lotto not to pick that set of numbers. Like I said, from a tin-hat basis.

                  With paranoia you'll never have to dine alone! 

                   Wink

                  Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any.

                  Lep

                  There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.

                    Avatar
                    NY
                    United States
                    Member #23835
                    October 16, 2005
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                    Posted: January 30, 2007, 10:32 pm - IP Logged

                    "The subscriptions become active after the player is sent a confirmation of receipt. The confirmation indicates the date on which the subscription will begin."

                    How much clearer could it be?  The guy made a bad assumption, plain and simple. He never got a confirmation saying his subscription had started, so he didn't play those numbers for that drawing. You don't win if the winning numbers match numbers you were intending to play, you win if the winning numbers match the numbers you really played. If he wanted to play those numbers he should have gone out and bought tickets until the date he was told his subscription started.  His phone call to the lottery is meaningless. Does anybody really think that somebody checked the status of his application rather than just telling him it would be done soon?

                    As far as the guy who tore up a winning ticket and threw it away, he may be an idiot, but the rules don't say idiots can't play and win. If  a winning ticket is sold and shows in the computer record there's no reason the lottery shouldn't pay without the ticket if somebody can  prove that they bought it. If the lottery knows the ticket was sold the only mystery is who bought it.

                      Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
                      Zeta Reticuli Star System
                      United States
                      Member #30470
                      January 17, 2006
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                      Posted: January 30, 2007, 10:39 pm - IP Logged

                      This is more onfo on the Illinois subscription play:

                      HOW LOTTERY SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE PAID OUT

                      Small prizes won by Lotto and Little Lotto subscribers are accumulated until the end of the subscription term and mailed to winners in one check. For Lotto subscribers, all $3 prizes (for matching 3 numbers) are accumulated and mailed at the end of the subscription term; for Little Lotto subscribers, all $1 and $10 prizes (for matching 2 or 3 numbers, respectively) are accumulated and mailed at the end of the subscription term.

                      Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any.

                      Lep

                      There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.

                        Guru101's avatar - rw6jhh
                        Indiana
                        United States
                        Member #48725
                        January 7, 2007
                        1953 Posts
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                        Posted: January 30, 2007, 10:45 pm - IP Logged

                        To tell you the truth, I think they're both idiots. The first guy is an idiot because he couldn't get off his lazy butt and drive down to the gas station and buy a ticket. Whether it be through a 3rd party, or directly from the lottery itself, I would never use a lottery subscription service. The second guy is an idiot because he tore up his tickets without checking them. Then when he finds out it was his numbers, he ACTUALLY thinks that he's owed money. What a loser.

                          justxploring's avatar - villiarna
                          Wandering Aimlessly
                          United States
                          Member #25360
                          November 5, 2005
                          4461 Posts
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                          Posted: January 31, 2007, 5:22 am - IP Logged

                          "Reid was awarded $7.4 million. After taxes and lawyer fees, he reportedly took home $2 million"

                          That's quite a haircut. Yikes! 

                          I should have read the article more carefully or it wasn't clear.  Sorry.  I didn't realize his payment was received and processed.  I'm glad he got some money.  He took quite a cut, but $2 million net is a nice prize. I agree with KY Floyd that he shouldn't have just assumed everything was being processed. I probably would have kept playing until I had the receipt.

                          I still agree (as Guru wrote) that both of these men were foolish.  I'm not familiar with NY games or laws, so maybe Rick is correct. I just looked at my Lotto slip and in FL you can mark the card to play up to 52 drawings, which is 6 months, same as buying a season ticket. 

                          Coin Toss has an interesting point.  The drawings are supposed to be random, so it shouldn't matter, but I won't buy my tickets in advance unless I plan to go away.  It shouldn't have any effect on what numbers are picked, but I don't want to "jinx" anything! 

                            Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
                            Zeta Reticuli Star System
                            United States
                            Member #30470
                            January 17, 2006
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                            Posted: January 31, 2007, 10:43 am - IP Logged

                             In over two years of a daily list of winners, the subscription winners just seem to be very, very low. since you have to be a resident of the state to play them, I'm nit sure why people would. Even if they were a shut-in they can just ask someone to play a ticket for them.

                            In the NY case I'm surprised the lawyer didn't mention anything about a "reasonable amount of time" passing from the time he mailed his ticket and the numbers they guy played hit. 

                            I mean, unless they were still using horse relay teams and the Pony Express.....and even at that... 

                            Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any.

                            Lep

                            There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.