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Connecticut lawmaker may request hearings over costly drawing error

Jan 6, 2018, 6:17 pm

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Connecticut LotteryConnecticut Lottery: Connecticut lawmaker may request hearings over costly drawing errorRating:

It should have been so easy for the five-member team in charge of a Jan. 1 lottery drawing to enter and verify the right numbers in a machine that electronically selected the winners of the Connecticut Lottery Corp.'s "New Year's $1,000,000 Super Draw" game.

Such an easy thing, but now so many problems.

The team members had the benefit of illustrated, step-by-step instructions that you or I could follow — in the form an "Official Drawing Procedures" manual for the game in which $10 tickets were dispensed from electronic terminals in retail lottery stores.

The manual emphasized that ticket numbers went upward from a low of 100001 — so the second ticket would be 100002, the third 100003, and so on. Ultimately, 214,601 tickets were sold, so the range of eligible tickets should have been 100001 at the low end, and 314,601 at the top end. The manual cautioned that the top eligible number "must be adjusted by 100,000 to represent the increase."

It even gave an illustrated example of that, saying that if 275,000 tickets were sold, the top number would be 100,000 plus 275,000 for a sum of 375,000 — and it had a picture of 375000 entered in the machine's "Upper Range" display window.

For the actual drawing on Jan. 1, the "Upper Range" number should have been entered as 314601 — which is the sum of 214,601, the number of tickets sold, plus the 100,000 "adjustment." But a lottery employee on the team instead entered 214601 — forgetting the "adjustment" and thus omitting the 100,000 higher-numbered tickets from 214602 through 314601 that should have been eligible.

Two observers on the team, who were there to verify the numbers were entered properly, didn't catch what's turned into a million-dollar blunder — and now there will have to be a yet-unscheduled second drawing at an additional cost of $1.375 million.

The clarity of the procedural manual, obtained by Government Watch via a Freedom of Information Act request, emphasizes the magnitude of what the lottery described as a "human error."

And day by day, it's all turning into a bigger mess.

Investigative Hearings?

Now state Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford, is saying he may seek to call another round of investigative hearings into the operations of the quasi-public lottery corporation.

Verrengia convened two hearings last May, as co-chairman of the General Assembly's public safety committee, that focused on months of turmoil at the lottery after its former CEO quit in September 2016 during an investigation of a fraud scheme that forced shutdown of the 5 Card Cash game in 2015.

"Unfortunately the Connecticut Lottery continues to be in the news for all the wrong reasons," Verrengia said in an interview. "The fact that another game has been compromised, this time to the tune of over $1 million, is unacceptable whether through human error or otherwise. And it's these types of incidents that continue to erode public confidence in the lottery."

He said "as co-chair of the committee of cognizance, I intend to hold accountable" not only the lottery corporation, but also the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) which regulates the lottery, and the lottery's independent consulting firm, Marcum LLP. The lottery had two representatives on the five-member drawing team, the DCP two, and Marcum one.

One of the lottery representatives had the job of entering the numbers, which then were supposed to be verified by one of the DCP employees and the representative of Marcum, according to Lora Rae Anderson, communications director for the DCP.

Verrengia said he'll wait until both the lottery and DCP complete separate investigations that each has begun into its part of the drawing screw-up. He said he expects that "those investigations will be completed in a timely manner, at which point a decision will be made whether to hold [another] public informational hearing." The most important things are "ensuring the integrity of the games and making sure all players are made whole," he said.

In addressing the mess, the lottery corporation says it will honor the 1,311 winning tickets in the flawed Jan. 1 drawing — a single $1-million winner, 10 winners of $20,000, 50 winners of $1,000, and 1,250 winning tickets worth $100 each, for a total of $1.375 million in prizes.

Also, lottery officials say they'll schedule a make-up drawing in a few days that will include all 214,601 tickets, as the first one should have, with another $1.375 million in prizes. That, of course, means the lottery will lose money on the game, because it will be paying out $2.75 million on $2,146,010 in ticket sales.

The lottery put out a statement Friday saying that it "hopes to announce the date of the additional ... drawing soon" and is working with the DCP and its vendor for the game, Scientific Games, "on software changes that will allow the gaming system to recognize a win from both the January 1, 2018 drawing as well as the upcoming drawing."

Unfair, Players Say

Even before the new date is set, though, the remedial drawing already is being blasted as unfair by lottery players. They note that people with tickets included in the flawed drawing get two shots at winning, while holders of the 100,000 tickets left out on Jan. 1 get only one shot.

One player, Ed Flemmig of Orange — who spent $500 to buy 50 tickets that were excluded from the Jan. 1 drawing — emailed Chelsea Turner, the lottery's interim president/CEO, on Friday to say that "in my mind, myself and the other holders of the 100,000 excluded ticket are still being treated unfairly." He offered "to gift my tickets to the charity of your choice in the event that this can be resolved in an equitable manner."

One solution players have proposed is that the lottery — even if it insists on holding a second drawing involving all 214,601 tickets sold — should even things out by holding a third drawing involving only the excluded 100,000 tickets. The additional $1.375 million cost would still be a "drop in the bucket" — compared to $1.2 billion in annual ticket sales — to maintain players' trust, said lottery player Jeff Houde of Haddam.

"Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution," the lottery said Wednesday on its website. "Some players have asked why not do a second drawing for only the 100,000 tickets that were omitted from the first drawing? Although at first glance, that may sound fair, it only compounds the initial error."

One problem is that some players may have thrown away still-eligible tickets that were still being read as losers by electronic scanners at retail lottery outlets Monday night, hours after the problem was announced in mid-afternoon by means including the lottery website.

Too Late Catching Error

The failure to include the 100,000 tickets in the upper range wasn't discovered until after the winning numbers were posted publicly on lottery website, the DCP's Anderson said, and once those numbers went public, there was no voiding the results.

Turner, the lottery's interim CEO, said in an email Friday that "the numbers were posted to our website at approximately 12:15–12:20. The drawing began at approximately 11:00 AM and concluded at approximately 12:06 PM.... At approximately 12:30 PM, a lottery employee noticed the issue when the employee checked to make sure the website had been updated with the winning numbers. Around this same time, consumers began asking questions. "

Two lottery employees have been placed on paid administrative leave and told to stay away from work during the agency's investigation of the flawed drawing. The two DCP employees who were at the drawing remain on the job, but won't be assigned to any drawings during DCP's own investigation, Anderson said. Asked if the lottery is contemplating any action regarding Marcum, such as withholding payment, Turner said only, "At this time, our first priority is conducting CT Super Draw 14 in accordance with the Game Rules and Drawing Procedures and making our players as whole as possible."

The lottery paid Marcum $60,800 in 2017.

Marcum, for its part, issued a statement Friday: "Marcum LLP is cooperating fully" with the lottery and DCP "to help develop an understanding of what transpired during the January 1, 2018 Super Draw Game #14. We will continue to assist as needed to help resolve all remaining questions regarding our agreed upon procedures engagement pertaining to the above-mentioned drawing."

Meanwhile, the lottery has put a list of answers to "frequently asked questions" on its website. Those include instructions for players who threw away tickets to fill out a claim form in hopes of convincing the lottery to reinstate their tickets by providing details on where and when they bought them. Judging by the cautions and disclaimers on the form, prospects of a successful claim aren't at all guaranteed.

No permanent CEO has yet been hired at the lottery, 15 months after Anne Noble stepped down from the job. A national search was delayed in mid-2017 when a top candidate turned down a job offer, and four finalists were interviewed in November. Three are from out of state and one is believed to be Turner, who clearly has some support among the lottery corporation's board of directors members. How the new problems that erupted Jan. 1 may affect the timing of the hiring decision, or the decision itself, is unknown.

Hartford Courant

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8 comments. Last comment 3 years ago by KY Floyd.
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music*'s avatar - DiscoBallGlowing
USN United States Navy
Fresno, California
United States
Member #157851
August 2, 2014
3959 Posts
Offline

How are the other Lotteries here in the U.S. reacting to this? I am assuming that some have the same type of system that could go wrong. They must be working overtime to prevent this problem from happening in their State. Including D.C., Virgin Islands, and maybe Puerto Rico.

Thinking of...

 "We are all in this together!" 

    Raven62's avatar - binary
    25
    New Jersey
    United States
    Member #17842
    June 28, 2005
    131900 Posts
    Online

    Goes to show you: You can't run a multi-million dollar operation on a shoestring!

    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.

      Avatar
      casper wyoming
      United States
      Member #136341
      December 9, 2012
      101 Posts
      Offline

      Mess with a certain amount of government money and the government will get involved but if the amount of money is lower the government will not care.

       

      How much money from the drawing had it gone correctly would have gone to the government?

       

      But when a scratch ticket gets miscut in a machine the government does not care since it is such a small amount.

        Avatar
        bristol ct
        United States
        Member #158582
        August 27, 2014
        22 Posts
        Offline

        THANK YOU

          Todd's avatar - Cylon 200.jpg
          50
          Chief Bottle Washer
          New Jersey
          United States
          Member #1
          May 31, 2000
          25869 Posts
          Offline

          Simple fix for the next raffle drawing:  Start your ticket numbering at "1".

           

          Check the State Lottery Report Card
          What grade did your lottery earn?

           

          Sign the Petition for True Lottery Drawings
          Help eliminate computerized drawings!

            Avatar

            Canada
            Member #154375
            April 14, 2014
            123 Posts
            Offline

            Simple fix for the next raffle drawing:  Start your ticket numbering at "1".

            An even simpler solution. Simply enter the number of tickets sold. Let the computer do the addition and calculate the range of tickets eligble for the draw.

              Avatar
              Bellingham, WA
              United States
              Member #86466
              February 4, 2010
              44 Posts
              Offline

              And so it goes boy's and girl's what happens when one tries to control the out come and screw the little people! Look for more screw up's from other states such as this to do the same thing!!! Just bring back the ball's and put the drawings on T.V. like before and be honest about it....US Flag

                KY Floyd's avatar - lysol avatar.jpg
                NY
                United States
                Member #23834
                October 16, 2005
                4264 Posts
                Offline

                "Start your ticket numbering at "1". "

                That would probably be a really simple fix on the lottery's end, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that some players feel that a ticket with the number 1, or 101 is somehow different than a ticket with the number 100001 or 100101. Maybe that  could be solved by making the first ticket 000001, but I've got a suspicion that a lot of players will sill feel that a ticket with a bunch of leading zeros is somehow less worthy than one that starts with a "real number".

                "Simply enter the number of tickets sold. Let the computer do the addition and calculate the range of tickets eligible for the draw."

                That does seem like an incredibly simple solution. You've got to get the basic programming right, but that's easy enough and then you can test it dozens of times to make sure you haven't done something stupid, and actually got it right. Then, once you've got it in place you can use it forever. You can even improve on it a bit, to further reduce the chances of still screwing it up through human error - enter the number of tickets sold and the number of the last ticket, then make sure that they both return the same result.

                Then as a final test, check the range for the winning ticket numbers to see how well that matches the range of all ticket numbers. If anyone had paid any attention to the results of the drawing it would have been extremely easy to see that there wasn't a single winner among tickets numbered from 214,602 through 314,601. Since the 100,000 tickets not included accounted for about 46.6% of the total, you'd expect that somewhere around 46.6% of the winning tickets would come from that range. That's about 611 tickets. The chance of having all 1311 winners be among the tickets with numbers lower than 214,602 is about .534^1311. That's about 1 in 1.5 * 10^357, or somewhat less likely than winning MM 42 times in a row by buying 1 ticket for each drawing.

                 

                It's bad enough that the observers didn't catch the mistake made by the person entering the number, but it's extremely obvious that they were working in a system that's not designed to look for errors. Maybe people involved in the drawing should get some unpaid time off or be demoted, but somebody with a better office needs a chance to explore a different career.

                 

                As for a perfect solution, there's one that comes close. There's nothing they can do about tickets that were thrown away, but they could give every ticket two chances to win, and it would be extremely easy. All they need to do is conduct the 2nd drawing using 414,601 as the upper bound instead of 314,601. That results in the original 100,001 to 214,601 range getting their second chance in the 2nd drawing.The tickets from 214,602 through 314,601 would get their first chance at a prize, and it would also create 100,000 virtual tickets, from 314,602 through 414,601 that would get also get one chance at a prize. Those virtual tickets would represent the 2nd chance for the previously missed tickets, with ticket 314,602 being the second chance for (real) ticket 214,602, and so on. That gives all of the tickets that had zero chances in the initial drawing their two chances in the correction drawing.