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Faulty $50 Wisonsin lottery ticket causing a flap

Wisconsin LotteryWisconsin Lottery: Faulty $50 Wisonsin lottery ticket causing a flap
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Celeste Davis is haunted by a scratch-off lottery ticket.

"I played Joker's Wild, and now the joke is on me," she sighed.

The Milwaukee woman spent $5 on a ticket that appears to be a $50 winner. So we're not talking about a lot of money here.

But the ticket never paid out, despite extraordinary efforts by Wisconsin Lottery staff to validate it.

"It's just a mystery. We tried to re-create her ticket so we could pay her," lottery communications director Stephanie Marquis said.

"We believe her," Marquis added. "A lot of people spent a lot of time trying to help her."

But they can't pay her because the ticket lacks a unique identification number needed to prove it's real and hadn't already been redeemed.

The story is reminiscent of a recent Virginia Lottery scratch-off ticket that was mis-cut by an automated vending machine this past August. In that case, the ticket buyer tried to tape together two parts of different lottery tickets to forge a 'winner'. (See D.C. woman who tried to redeem faulty ticket admitted to forging second 'winner', Lottery Post, Sep. 9, 2015.)

But Celeste Davis' story may be a bit more genuine. And the Wiscosin Lottery seems to have gone through Herculean efforts to validate the ticket as a winner.

A grandmother, Davis retired from J.C. Penney in 2002 after many years as wage and benefits administrator. She and her husband, Rick, have owned a nice home in the city's northwest corner since 1973.

They like to shop at Woodman's Markets in Menomonee Falls, and that's where Davis said she slid a $5 bill into a lottery ticket machine on Jan. 19. That's right, January. That's how long this has been festering.

Sitting in her car, she scratched off the ticket and matched three of the four winning numbers, which appeared to make her a $50 winner against 100-1 odds.

"I was so happy. I ran back in the store like I had just won a million dollars," she told me.

But the clerk refused to pay, she said. The ticket did not have a bar code and identification number in the usual spot at the bottom. Davis said she was told the machine had incorrectly cut the ticket, and she would need to take her case to the lottery office.

There's disagreement over this, but Davis also says the ticket had a bar code at the wrong end, presumably from the previous or subsequent ticket, but that this was removed and kept by the store. Both Marquis and store manager Mike Malafa told me this would never happen.

So Davis contacted the lottery office, the first of several calls back and forth between her and staff members from January and April. She was asked to send the ticket to Madison, which she did after making a photocopy of it.

The staff was so sure Davis was telling the truth that it took the unusual step of re-creating every single Joker's Wild ticket provided to this Woodman's store since the game started a year ago. If they found the one that exactly matched Davis' ticket, they could retrieve the identification number and pay her.

By now you're getting the sense that way more than $50 has been spent investigating this matter.

The results were not encouraging. "There were no winning Joker's Wild tickets sold to Woodman's in Menomonee Falls that matched the ticket she presented," Marquis said.

Davis was flabbergasted by that news. "How can they say the ticket doesn't exist? Here it is," she said, holding up the photocopy as we talked in her kitchen.

Marquis said lottery workers contacted the Woodman's store and were told they didn't recall any trouble with their lottery ticket machine this year or any miscut tickets. There were no service calls to fix the machine. Store officials didn't remember interacting with Davis over the ticket.

Malafa, the manager of the store since 2010, was surprised by my inquiry Tuesday.

"This is the first time I'm hearing about it," he said, adding he was unaware of the lottery office re-creating all of his Joker's Wild tickets. Perhaps they talked to his head cashier, he guessed.

You can see how complicated this can all become. The lottery office would like nothing more than to pay this woman what she claims she won and avoid the public relations fallout, but their hands are tied because the ticket lacks the bar code. Davis says that's not her fault.

In March, the lottery office mailed her a check for $5 to cover the amount she gambled. Davis never cashed it because it felt too much like giving up.

I asked why she contacted me in November about a lottery ticket gone bad 10 months earlier.

"It's eating at me every day," she said. "When I go to the store and walk past the machine, I say I will never play you again."

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Journal Sentinel, Lottery Post Staff

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24 comments. Last comment 12 months ago by Groppo.
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Happy California
United States
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August 2, 2014
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Posted: December 4, 2015, 9:51 am - IP Logged

Dear Celeste Davis,  Please stick with Power Ball and Mega Millions. You could change your life. No headaches with these two games. These are equal opportunity games.Noel

 I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, rich is better. 

 Attributed to Joe E. Lewis and others

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    ozone park
    United States
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    December 15, 2007
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    Posted: December 4, 2015, 11:41 am - IP Logged

    This actually happened to me when I bought my ticket in a machine and the machine cut it too early so what i did was buy the next ticket and the next until the machine corrected itself which it did. Needless to say none were winners anyway. But machine do make mistakes.

      Slick Nick's avatar - Lottery-035.jpg
      Rochester
      United States
      Member #103282
      January 1, 2011
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      Posted: December 4, 2015, 11:58 am - IP Logged

      I feel bad for Celeste. It seems recently there have been all kind of "LOTTERY" mishaps, crimes, etc.. Time to kick some A$$ and take no names. Bring things back to a truthful, honest, way.Smash

      Money is a terrible master, but a great servant...Smile

        RedStang's avatar - tallman zps6gf4inoc.jpg
        NY
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        January 21, 2012
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        Posted: December 4, 2015, 12:26 pm - IP Logged

        They must be really desperate if they can't pay her $50.

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          NY
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          October 16, 2005
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          Posted: December 4, 2015, 1:05 pm - IP Logged

          They must be really desperate if they can't pay her $50.

          As the article says, "their hands are tied because the ticket lacks the bar code." They've got to follow the rules, and they clearly spent far more than $50 trying to come up with a way to pay her without violating the rules. What they didn't do, but probably could have, is give her $50 worth of tickets.

            zephbe's avatar - animal butterfly.jpg
            South Carolina
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            July 15, 2009
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            Posted: December 4, 2015, 5:01 pm - IP Logged

            So someone with the bar code for her ticket but a different set of numbers could have been paid the $50.00 she should have received. They pay by the bar code-not what is on the ticket.  Don't buy tickets out of machines.

            Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.-Rocky Balboa

            “Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of going after yours.” – Zig Ziglar

              zephbe's avatar - animal butterfly.jpg
              South Carolina
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              Posted: December 4, 2015, 5:11 pm - IP Logged

              You have another article on here about a Wisconsin scratch off that was printed wrong.  The last story under related stories.

              Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.-Rocky Balboa

              “Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of going after yours.” – Zig Ziglar

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                Simpsonville
                United States
                Member #163189
                January 22, 2015
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                Posted: December 4, 2015, 5:53 pm - IP Logged

                You have another article on here about a Wisconsin scratch off that was printed wrong.  The last story under related stories.

                Not related too much about the story except for this.  There's an ATM right next door to the lottery machine in Simpsonville, KY.  A lady took money out and played all kinds of scratchers.  I took the pile out of the trash can, took them to another store and lo and behold one was a $200 winner!

                  HoLeeKau's avatar - YheaShea
                  Idaho
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                  July 17, 2010
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                  Posted: December 4, 2015, 6:35 pm - IP Logged

                  As the article says, "their hands are tied because the ticket lacks the bar code." They've got to follow the rules, and they clearly spent far more than $50 trying to come up with a way to pay her without violating the rules. What they didn't do, but probably could have, is give her $50 worth of tickets.

                  Yeah, even the cheap-o Idaho lottery gave me a new ticket a while back.  On Mega Monday you can buy a $5 mega millions and get a 2nd chance drawing voucher.  My voucher didn't print.  So I contacted them, they said someone forgot that it was Monday and didn't set the computers correctly, and they mailed me a voucher that when scanned popped out another $5 mega ticket.

                  If Idaho can do it, then surely Wisconsin can find a way to make it right.

                    Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
                    Chief Bottle Washer
                    New Jersey
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                    May 31, 2000
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                    Posted: December 4, 2015, 6:41 pm - IP Logged

                    Not related too much about the story except for this.  There's an ATM right next door to the lottery machine in Simpsonville, KY.  A lady took money out and played all kinds of scratchers.  I took the pile out of the trash can, took them to another store and lo and behold one was a $200 winner!

                    Nice!

                     

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                      Kentucky
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                      February 14, 2006
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                      Posted: December 4, 2015, 8:45 pm - IP Logged

                      This actually happened to me when I bought my ticket in a machine and the machine cut it too early so what i did was buy the next ticket and the next until the machine corrected itself which it did. Needless to say none were winners anyway. But machine do make mistakes.

                      I saw almost the same thing happen on Monday when a vending machine cut off the bottom of a ticket, but that person didn't scratch the ticket. The clerk refunded the money, opened the machine and corrected the problem. Not everyone notices the bar codes on the bottom of the ticket, but payoffs are based on them.

                      Without a bar code the lottery can't pay though they should know if the $50 was paid.

                        travelintrucker's avatar - morph
                        Greenville, SC
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                        November 4, 2015
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                        Posted: December 5, 2015, 7:40 am - IP Logged

                        Bummer. They need to pay her. I don't see how she could fake that. Where's the real ticket?

                        May the balls bounce in your favor!

                          travelintrucker's avatar - morph
                          Greenville, SC
                          United States
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                          November 4, 2015
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                          Posted: December 5, 2015, 7:41 am - IP Logged

                          i check the number on the bottom right-hand corner.

                          May the balls bounce in your favor!

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                            Kentucky
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                            February 14, 2006
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                            Posted: December 5, 2015, 9:47 am - IP Logged

                            i check the number on the bottom right-hand corner.

                            But this ticket has no "right-hand corner" to check and why they can't pay her. There were two other possibilities, she didn't scratch it and asked for a refund or it was a losing ticket.

                            And if they pay her, will they pay everybody who finds smaller value winning tickets in the trash and cut off the bar codes that were already scanned?