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SC Lottery not paying winnings on game because of 'programming error'

Dec 27, 2017, 12:18 pm

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South Carolina LotterySouth Carolina Lottery: SC Lottery not paying winnings on game because of 'programming error'Rating:

People who believed they were big winners in a simple South Carolina Education Lottery game over the Christmas holiday were angry to discover that they won't actually win anything.

That's because a computer glitch awarded many would-be lucky lottery winners thousands of dollars through the Holiday Cash game.

From 5:51 to 7:53 p.m. on Christmas Day, the same play symbol was repeated in all nine available play areas on tickets which would result in a top prize of $500, according to the South Carolina Education Lottery. No more than five identical play symbols should appear for a single play.

"As soon as the issue was identified, the Add-A-Play game was suspended immediately to conduct a thorough investigation," a statement said. "Instant (scratch) tickets and all other lottery games were not affected by this error."

Lottery officials immediately suspended Holiday Cash until further notice until the glitch is reviewed.

Still, that didn't stop angry lottery players from all over South Carolina from heading to the main Columbia office Wednesday morning. A line of players formed outside the lottery office to demand answers.

Holiday Cash Add-A-Play game sales and validations will remain suspended until further notice. The South Carolina Education Lottery advised that all players who purchased a Holiday Cash Add-A-Play ticket on Christmas Day during the time period affected are advised to hold on to their ticket(s) until the review is completed.

Lottery officials said late Tuesday they are looking to have an announcement on the issue later this week.

The impact of the programming error

Imagine getting a lottery ticket for Christmas, and winning.

That's what happened to two Upstate women Monday.

"I was having a good day and I wanted to try it," Nicole Coggins of Liberty told a local TV station.

She said she had a gut feeling. "I don't play the lottery that much. Every once in a while, I'll buy a Powerball ticket, but something told me to buy a lottery ticket," she said.

Coggins knew she was on to something when she bought a Holiday Cash ticket, and paid an extra dollar to add a play. 

Players have to get three Christmas trees in any vertical, horizontal or diagonal line in order to win a prize.

Coggins won.

"I was happy," she said. "I was excited. I was calling everyone I knew, 'I won $500.'"

To test her luck, Coggins bought another ticket.

"And it was another winner and another winner. So I thought, 'Well, maybe there is something wrong with their machine. This can't be real.'"

She drove to two other gas stations with the same result, so she called her mother-in-law, Shawanna Ladd and suggested she try playing the game.

"I played $10 first, and I won on every ticket," Ladd said.

Together they racked up almost $18,000 at different Liberty stores including Marathon, Spinx and Ball Mart.

But their Christmas miracle turned out to be a sham, when Coggins went to cash in the tickets. The cashier put the tickets into the machine, but only disappointment came out.

"It told him 'transaction not allowed,' that the game was not valid," Coggins said.

No one at the stores would talk on camera, but a manager at one store said "it was crazy" on Christmas day, as the word got out about the winning tickets and dozens of people rushed in to buy them.

He said the frenzy lasted for about an hour, before the machines stopped issuing tickets.

The "winning" tickets inserted into the lottery machine to confirm the win said that the tickets were invalid, so no money was issued, he said.

At least one other person reported the same situation, and there were published reports of similar invalid sales in the Charleston area.

The news was heartbreaking for Coggins, who got emotional as she explained that she had already told her kids they were going to take a trip to Disney World.

"I had been promising them for years and I thought I would finally get to, and now I can't," she said.

After spending $100 on lottery tickets, Coggins got nothing in return.

She said Tuesday afternoon that she was still waiting for a response from the South Carolina Education Lottery.

"We didn't do anything wrong. The stores didn't do anything wrong. It's (the SCEL's) fault. I think they should either honor the tickets or give us our money back," Coggins said.

Until then, she's not going to let the so-called glitch ruin her Christmas.

"I'll always have my family and I'm thankful for my family and that's the more important thing in the world," she said.

The SCEL headquarters in Columbia is closed for the holidays and will reopen Wednesday.

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41 comments. Last comment 3 years ago by KY Floyd.
Page 1 of 3
Morristown, TN
United States
Member #20592
August 21, 2005
492 Posts

Just another example of why computerized games are a joke. People should quit playing these games. The computer is programmed not to pick winners. When you play it can make sure you lose.

    music*'s avatar - DiscoBallGlowing
    USN United States Navy
    Fresno, California
    United States
    Member #157851
    August 2, 2014
    3959 Posts

     The South Carolina Education Lottery might be called Scrooge or The Grinch but in both cases, they changed their penny-pinching ways and were saved.

     "We are all in this together!" 

      Marana AZ
      United States
      Member #145337
      August 3, 2013
      253 Posts

      "We didn't do anything wrong," Coggins said.

      Uh, yeah right.  She knew there was a problem with the tickets but she kept buying more of them and she even got her mother to go buy some.  Greed overwhelmed common sense.

        Chasing $ Millions.
        White Shores- California
        United States
        Member #136473
        December 12, 2012
        6332 Posts

        "We didn't do anything wrong," Coggins said.

        Uh, yeah right.  She knew there was a problem with the tickets but she kept buying more of them and she even got her mother to go buy some.  Greed overwhelmed common sense.

        Yep, that's like being the driver in the getaway car of a bank heist. I " wasn't in the bank " l was just waiting outside.It's a mixture of greed & stupidity.How is losing  $100 not wrong?

         * Voice of Reason *   


        People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it- George Bernard Shaw.

          South Carolina
          United States
          Member #181128
          April 10, 2017
          551 Posts

          So do you all think they are not going to pay the people that usely purchase 2 or 3 daily.? As that wasn't wrong in my personal opinion.

            faith117's avatar - nw shadow.jpg
            United States
            Member #177741
            October 18, 2016
            10648 Posts

            Just another example of why computerized games are a joke. People should quit playing these games. The computer is programmed not to pick winners. When you play it can make sure you lose.

            I Agree!.......after what happened in SC I totally agree you can set the system to produce losing tickets with computerized drawings

            The only time you run out of chances is if you don't take them. 117Jester Laugh 

              Portland, OR
              United States
              Member #145969
              August 20, 2013
              262 Posts

              I didn't even read the article, but I'm sure this case is same ole same ole, we had an error so you are SOL.  All I know there should be a "Tough Luck" law in favor of the winners.  They did their part buying the ticket, so now pay up!   How many times has the lottery have had some type of error, didn't tell anybody, and they still kept players' money?  I'm sure many times.

              People are more complicated than the masks they wear in society...

                Raven62's avatar - binary
                New Jersey
                United States
                Member #17842
                June 28, 2005
                131783 Posts

                So much for: Program Quality Assurance!

                A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions!

                Catch-22: A dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

                Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges: When the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous.

                  Wyomissing, PA
                  United States
                  Member #161045
                  November 15, 2014
                  481 Posts

                  "We didn't do anything wrong," Coggins said.

                  Uh, yeah right.  She knew there was a problem with the tickets but she kept buying more of them and she even got her mother to go buy some.  Greed overwhelmed common sense.

                  Exactly. Hence, most likely the SC Lottery will offer a refund for all non-conforming, invalid tickets. Hopefully, they make the process simple, but it wouldn't surprise me if the affected players have to mail in the tickets and wait a couple of weeks or so for a refund check. For many lotteries, such as PA, that's usually how refunds for errors are handled.

                  Presuming the potential prize liability is several million dollars or less, the SC Lottery could easily afford to pay out. However, it sets a bad precedent. There are some types of errors in which a lottery will sometimes pay out (ie. faulty machine drawing, incorrect winning numbers announced, duplicate serial numbers for instant prizes, etc), but printing / display error alone generally isn't one of them.

                  Being the issue occurred on Christmas day, it would be great for the players to be paid. Maybe SC Lottery will spread some cheer this holiday season.

                    zephbe's avatar - animal butterfly.jpg
                    South Carolina
                    United States
                    Member #77165
                    July 15, 2009
                    897 Posts

                    SCEL has not decided how to handle this yet.  They had a mixup with a pick 3 number before and paid both numbers.  They try to be fair so I'll wait to see how they remedy the situation.

                    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

                      New Member
                      United States
                      Member #21485
                      September 10, 2005
                      2 Posts

                      Computer glitch my azzzz, what a rip off. These lottery commissioners just making a killing for themselves. This is happening too often thru out the States that plays.

                        United States
                        Member #87366
                        February 23, 2010
                        65 Posts

                        so if state claims cliche in machine then 2. options either pay all winners 1. pay all ticket holders amount paid for ticket can't have it both ways...but alot of players probably already threw tickets away.

                          United States
                          Member #163184
                          January 22, 2015
                          2281 Posts

                          Kind of torn three ways with this.  My first thought was just give the folks the money, say mea culpa and be done with it. 

                          Then they could just refund the cost of each ticket.

                          Lastly, though not my favorite choice by any stretch is to have the Feds get involved and maybe just put an end to the RNG in good faith.  Who knows?   I stopped playing Five Card Cash here since it is RNG and notice other states have the same lottery.  Not one $100K yet in KY.  How can you win when the computer already knows there is not a snow ball's chance in hell of winning the top prize?

                          2018 will see some LP members win the big one.

                            New York, NY
                            United States
                            Member #140630
                            March 23, 2013
                            10697 Posts

                            Oh man! Here we go again. "The game was 'programmed' incorrectly and it just spit out too many winners."

                            "I won I won!! I spent my last $4!" "Go to collect they not paying." The lottery said something about the tickets being worth $500 bucks and to hold onto your ticket because you never know if it's worth something. Uh, maybe I'm getting old but if you check your numbers and they match isn't that a sign that you won? 

                            Wow, messed up. computerized games are the worst! Good luck next time---wow.

                            Sometimes you do the right thing just because it’s right.