UPDATED (Aug. 28, 2007, 11:44 am) — Internal documents added
The Tennessee Lottery should investigate whether fraud was behind a computer malfunction that affected the results for Cash 3 and Cash 4 games, the lottery board's audit chairman says.
James H. Ripley, a Sevierville attorney who heads the 3-year-old lottery's audit group, said the agency should probe more deeply into why a computer software problem prevented duplicate numbers from being drawn for a three-week period.
"A lottery depends on its integrity, and so, you always want to rule that out,'' Ripley said in a telephone interview Monday. "I have seen absolutely no evidence of fraud at this point.''
Lottery officials announced Aug. 20 that a coding error had rendered their system incapable of generating duplicate winning numbers for Cash 3 and Cash 4 - such as 2-5-2 or 3-7-7-7 - for 23 days. Because of the glitch, players who picked numbers with such repeating digits had no chance of winning.
Those who picked single numbers had a higher chance of winning, however.
The glitch began on July 28, the day the lottery had switched to a computer-run system intended to draw random numbers, pushing aside the older method of using numbered balls drawn from transparent containers.
Ripley wrote to lottery director Rebecca Paul Hargrove last week asking for a probe to discover:
- The nature of all human and machine errors that contributed to the failure of the system;
- The identity of all the people who were responsible for the problem or who failed to prevent it, including lottery personnel and employees of New Jersey-based Smartplay International Inc., the company that sold the computer system to Tennessee for $221,200;
- An analysis of whether the software error could have been inserted deliberately, and, if so, whether anyone profited by the improved odds for those who played single numbers;
- A written account from Smartplay explaining the cause of the problem and why it was not detected;
- An explanation for any delay in detecting or reporting the problem.
Hargrove said the lottery would get all of Ripley's questions answered. The agency's internal auditor is working on that now, said Wanda Wilson, the lottery's general counsel.
"We're going to look at all his questions and answer them the best we can," Hargrove said Monday.
James Berry, a Tennessee lottery player from Hopkinsville, Ky., said he didn't think anyone intentionally rigged the game, but that he was disturbed that his e-mails to the lottery pointing out the lack of double numbers did not appear to have been taken seriously.
"They just wrote it off that I was crazy or something,'' Berry said. "I think they could have looked a little further."
Hargrove said she did not believe fraud was involved. She said a player would have had to spend $720 to win $500 in the Cash 3 game and $5,040 to win $5,000 in Cash 4, making it unlikely anyone would purposely rig the games.
"It just doesn't make any sense," she said.
She also said the glitch and the publicity about it had not hurt sales of Cash 3 and Cash 4 tickets, which were somewhat higher last week. The lottery has increased the prize money for those games.
Ripley said he planned to call a meeting of the audit committee in September, before the next board meeting in October.
Lottery officials have said the glitch occurred because of a computer coding error. A Smartplay employee typed in a "u" for "unique" instead of an "r" for "repeat" in the computer code, they said.
The error wasn't caught by another company that the lottery had paid $5,000 to verify that the new system was operating properly.
Officials with that firm, Gaming Laboratories Inc., have returned the money to the lottery, Hargrove said.
How to get your lottery refund
Players who picked duplicate numbers in the Cash 3 or Cash 4 games held from July 28 through Aug. 20, 2007, and have their tickets can get a double refund for each ticket or two free plays equal to the play amount on the ticket.
The deadline for refunds is Sept. 13.
You can get your refund by taking your signed tickets to a district office or by mailing them to Tennessee Education Lottery, P.O. Box 280360, Nashville, TN 37228-0360.
Locations of district offices are listed on the lottery Web page at www.tnlottery.com/howtoclaim/default.aspx.
Call Player Services at (877) 7TN-PLAY (786-7529) or 254-4946 for more information.
Letter sent to WKRN-TV complaining about the lack of doubles (DN83269821.pdf, 205 KB)
Internal memo requesting investigation (DN83931827.pdf, 1.56 MB)
Internal memo describing steps taken (DN83932827.pdf, 1.31 MB)
The above documents are in "pdf" format, which can be displayed using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. (Click link to download the latest release of the reader.)