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$85M sought for "defective" Virginia lottery tickets

Virginia LotteryVirginia Lottery: $85M sought for "defective" Virginia lottery tickets

Man sues Virginia Lottery for selling $85 million in "defective" scratch-off tickets

A lawsuit by Washington and Lee University professor Scott Hoover seeks reimbursement for purchasers of an estimated 26.5 million tickets over the past five years. He asserted that the tickets had no chance of winning the top prize promised on them.

John Fishwick, a Roanoke attorney for Hoover, on Monday released copies of a lawsuit filed in Richmond Circuit Court. It seeks an $85 million judgment and an injunction preventing the Lottery from selling the outdated tickets.

The practice among state lotteries is widespread, said Rob Carey, an attorney who has filed similar challenges in Arizona, California, Colorado and Washington state.

"It's flat-out false. It's deceptive," he said. "They all play for the grand prize."

In New Jersey, for instance, no top prizes remain for an 8-month-old game, $1 million Explosion, but Lottery spokesman Dominick DeMarco said he was unaware of any similar lawsuits in that state.

Virginia Lottery Director Paula Otto said Monday she had not seen Hoover's lawsuit, but that policies were being updated to ensure that top prizes were available for all games.

Hoover's action said the problem arose in popular games, in which the Lottery issued new shipments of tickets but did not tell retailers to pull tickets from old shipments when all the top prizes were awarded. As a result, the lawsuit said, tickets with no chance of winning a game's top prize were sold.

After Fishwick gave notice June 9 of plans for a lawsuit, Lottery officials said they were checking millions of tickets to ensure that each scratch-off game had top prizes available. Otto said Monday that a few defective tickets were found at retail outlets and in the Lottery's warehouse and were pulled out.

"We want to reassure our players that scratch tickets at retailers have top prizes as well as plenty of smaller prizes," she said.

Fishwick contended that Lottery officials should reimburse players.

"The Lottery has refused to admit the scope of the injury it has caused Virginia citizens or take any responsibility for it," he said in a statement.

Carey said he's found the odds of winning in court slim. But in his California case, the state held a "losers' lottery" in which people could enter losing tickets.

The New Jersey Lottery urges scratcher players to check its Internet listings to determine what prizes remain for nearly 80 instant games, spokesman Dominick DeMarco said. He said many vendors might check for a customer and some make printouts available.

AP, Lottery Post Staff

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17 comments. Last comment 8 years ago by flamarko.
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DC81's avatar - batman39
MI
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Posted: July 1, 2008, 10:53 am - IP Logged

I think this is more of a fraud issue than a defect issue because the tickets weren't defective, just that the states were still selling tickets after all the top prizes were won and not telling people they were gone and still advertising that they could win the top prize.. They could very well be found guilty of fraud if this actually goes to court and if they are they're going to paying a lot more than 85 million. They'd be in their best interest to settle...

You can't predict random.

    ThatScaryChick's avatar - x1MqPuM
    Idaho
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    Posted: July 1, 2008, 1:16 pm - IP Logged

    I agree. I don't think it's defective. I think it is fraud. Most people play for the chance to win the top prizes and when the lottery officials know that the top prizes are won and don't say anything...well, there is something wrong with that. I think all states who sell scratch offs should have to tell the public that the top prizes are gone. This way players can choose to still play if they don't mind playing for lower wins.

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

      RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
      mid-Ohio
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      Posted: July 1, 2008, 2:36 pm - IP Logged

      In order to pay the top prizes and have a profit of 50% of sales, lotteries must sell all the tickets including all the losers.  That is the structure of those types of games.

      Players who buy scratch-offs know the only prizes they have a chance at winning are the ones on the roll of tickets from which they buy their tickets and that doesn't change regardless if the top prize is sold or not.  The top prize is on one of many of rolls of tickets sold and only the players buying off that one roll have a chance at winning it. 

      The only way to avoid this problem is to have a drawing after all the tickets are sold to determine the top prize winners but most scratch-off players want instant results.

      Ohio has TPD (Top Prize Drawing) scratch-offs in which the players win a prize and when he claims it he is also entered in a drawing to be held after all the tickets are sold to pick the top prize winner which could be three or more months after all the tickets are sold.

       * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
         
                   Evil Looking       

        Avatar
        Kentucky
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        February 14, 2006
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        Posted: July 1, 2008, 2:58 pm - IP Logged

        I think this is more of a fraud issue than a defect issue because the tickets weren't defective, just that the states were still selling tickets after all the top prizes were won and not telling people they were gone and still advertising that they could win the top prize.. They could very well be found guilty of fraud if this actually goes to court and if they are they're going to paying a lot more than 85 million. They'd be in their best interest to settle...

        "The practice among state lotteries is widespread, said Rob Carey, an attorney who has filed similar challenges in Arizona, California, Colorado and Washington state."

        Unless the last ticket sold in every scratch-off game is the highest jackpot winner there will always be tickets sold after it was won. I think it would be more of fraud if the lotteries knew which tickets has the jackpot prizes and withheld them until most of the other tickets were sold. It looks like Rob Carey has stumbled on that fact and is using it to sue many state lotteries.

        The game facts or how many winning tickets of each denomination are published by the lotteries before the first ticket is sold and if the wording made it look like they would stop selling those game tickets after all the high denomination winners were sold, it could be fraud. It's hard to believe that any lottery would sell $85 million worth of tickets after indicating sales would stop when the last highest denomination ticket was sold. It's more likely there is a disclaimer on the publication explaining the possibilities that ticket sales will continue after the last highest denomination prize was won or saying ticket sales will continue regardless.

        Periodically some lotteries will publish the number of remaining winning tickets by denomination but even that information is only reliable at the time it was published. It's not uncommon to see the number of winning tickets proportionally higher than when the game began but I don't see how it could be fraud if that greatly changed between the time publication was written and the time I read it and bought a ticket.

          justxploring's avatar - villiarna
          Wandering Aimlessly
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          Posted: July 1, 2008, 3:29 pm - IP Logged

          In order to pay the top prizes and have a profit of 50% of sales, lotteries must sell all the tickets including all the losers.  That is the structure of those types of games.

          Players who buy scratch-offs know the only prizes they have a chance at winning are the ones on the roll of tickets from which they buy their tickets and that doesn't change regardless if the top prize is sold or not.  The top prize is on one of many of rolls of tickets sold and only the players buying off that one roll have a chance at winning it. 

          The only way to avoid this problem is to have a drawing after all the tickets are sold to determine the top prize winners but most scratch-off players want instant results.

          Ohio has TPD (Top Prize Drawing) scratch-offs in which the players win a prize and when he claims it he is also entered in a drawing to be held after all the tickets are sold to pick the top prize winner which could be three or more months after all the tickets are sold.

          I agree with RJOh that it's the structure of the game.  I would not call it fraud unless nobody won the top prizes.  "Up to" means that even if you win, you might still get a smaller prize amount.

          I think most people who buy scratch tickets are aware when a game has been around for a long time.  Still, that doesn't mean there isn't a nice prize still available. 

          These aren't raffle tickets, they're scratch tickets.  If there were no prizes at all left, then it would definitely be fraud. But the odds are still the same odds and don't change just because top prizes were paid out.

          Here's an example of a scratch-off in FL.  Gold Rush has a $500,000 top prize and the odds are 1 in 2,500,000.  There are 8 of 11 top prizes remaining.  Do your odds change everytime someone buys a winning ticket?  No.  Someone might say "Well, if the prizes are gone then the odds have changed" but that isn't true.  Or is it? 

          So if there are 11 chances of winning $500,000 and suddenly there are no chances of winning $500,000 does it mean the odds have changed since, no matter how many tickets you buy, even every one that is left, you will never win $500,000?

            Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
            Zeta Reticuli Star System
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            Posted: July 1, 2008, 6:27 pm - IP Logged

            There was a case- Texas maybe- where tickets were still being sold for a game with all the top prizes already paid out.

            Someone complained or filed suit and after that whatever state it was (and some others) take all the tickets for that game back when the top prize is no longer available.

            Just my opinion, but anything else is false advertising.

            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.

              JAP69's avatar - alas
              South Carolina
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              Posted: July 1, 2008, 6:36 pm - IP Logged

              To solve all this mucky muck about top prizes being gone they should operate like the raffle drawing.

              Payout the lower tier prizes on a ticket. These will not have a raffle number on them.

              All tickets that are not winners for a lower tier prize will have a scratch area for the raffle number. These are kept by the players until the end of the game.

              After all scratchers are sold for that game they will have a raffle for the top prize(s).

              Do not lose those raffle drawing tickets while waiting though.

              WHATT

                time*treat's avatar - radar

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                Posted: July 1, 2008, 9:03 pm - IP Logged

                Any difference in tickets and you will have crooked clerks fishing through the rolls for those lower tier prizes. You've just increased the amount of muck.

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

                  Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
                  Chief Bottle Washer
                  New Jersey
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                  Posted: July 1, 2008, 10:51 pm - IP Logged

                  I think this is more of a fraud issue than a defect issue because the tickets weren't defective, just that the states were still selling tickets after all the top prizes were won and not telling people they were gone and still advertising that they could win the top prize.. They could very well be found guilty of fraud if this actually goes to court and if they are they're going to paying a lot more than 85 million. They'd be in their best interest to settle...

                  I think it probably has to do with what kind of case would be easier to prove. 

                  As I understand, it can be hard to prove fraud, whereas there are probably much different standards to prove a defect.  He must have weighed his options along with his risks and decided that defect would be easier to prove.

                   

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                    Think's avatar - lightbulb
                    Marquette, MI
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                    Posted: July 1, 2008, 10:57 pm - IP Logged

                    If enough people win enough of these lawsuits then bye bye sratchers!

                    Hurray!

                      justxploring's avatar - villiarna
                      Wandering Aimlessly
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                      Posted: July 1, 2008, 11:23 pm - IP Logged

                      There was a case- Texas maybe- where tickets were still being sold for a game with all the top prizes already paid out.

                      Someone complained or filed suit and after that whatever state it was (and some others) take all the tickets for that game back when the top prize is no longer available.

                      Just my opinion, but anything else is false advertising.

                      I just went to the list for FL scratch-offs and none of the active games have 0 top prizes.   Some have only 1 left, but I don't see any zeros.

                        RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                        mid-Ohio
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                        Posted: July 2, 2008, 12:52 pm - IP Logged

                        If enough people win enough of these lawsuits then bye bye sratchers!

                        Hurray!

                        The only thing that will change is the way they're advertised because these type of games are some of the states biggest money makers.

                         * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
                           
                                     Evil Looking       

                          ThatScaryChick's avatar - x1MqPuM
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                          Posted: July 2, 2008, 1:23 pm - IP Logged

                          The only thing that will change is the way they're advertised because these type of games are some of the states biggest money makers.

                          I agree. There is no way that the state lotterys will get rid of scratch offs. I think there are a big section of folks who only play scrath off games and not the other lottery games. They would lose a ton of money.

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

                            Avatar
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                            Posted: July 3, 2008, 12:18 am - IP Logged

                            I guess this is sort of interesting.  I DO believe that the advertising should be changed, but I would be hard pressed to believe that anything much will come of this in court.  Afterall, a TON of profit is generated by scratch tickets and I don't really think that any judge that hears this case is gonna do much to change that.  I think the deep pockets of the lottery commisions for each state in question will have more to do with the outcome of the lawsuits than anything else, don't you?  I'm sorry to be negative, but it just seems like the ones with the most money always win (ie. oil companies).  I served this country for 10 years in the military but sometimes I get pretty peeved at the way things work in America.