Players who claimed prizes under wrong numbers can keep their winnings
By Kate Northrop
The Iowa Lottery attributed posting the wrong Powerball numbers on their website for Monday's draw to a "human reporting error" and told players who already redeemed prizes that they can keep the winnings.
Several hours after the wrong Powerball numbers were posted on the Iowa Lottery's website the night of the drawing on Mon., Nov. 27, the Lottery removed the incorrect sequence and republished the actual winning numbers.
The wrong numbers were posted on the Lottery's website at about 12:30 am Tuesday and were removed from the website at around 7:15 am that same morning. Prize payouts for those incorrect results were subsequently halted once the incorrect results were taken down and when the Lottery suspended payouts while they fixed the problem.
The nature of the error involved accidental confusion between the regular Powerball drawing results and the Powerball Double Play results, which is an extra drawing occurring immediately after the regular Powerball drawing that players can enter as part of an add-on feature.
Iowa Lottery staff members who made the mistake inputted the first five Double Play numbers as the first five regular Powerball numbers, so both sets of numbers for the two drawings were identical, Mary Neubauer, Lottery Vice President of External Relations told Lottery Post. Those numbers mistakenly entered for the Powerball drawing — but were correct for that night's Double Play drawing — were 9, 29, 51, 53, and 61. The correct Powerball numbers for Monday's draw were 2, 21, 38, 61, and 66.
Tickets that held those false winning numbers were only valid for a prize payout between when they were posted on the Lottery's central gaming system and when the Lottery realized the error and suspended the checking and cashing of Powerball tickets. Players who tried to scan or cash a Powerball ticket at a lottery terminal during the suspension received a message reading, "Draw has not occurred, more draws remain."
Once the correct results were inputted into the Lottery's system, checking and cashing resumed. From that point on, the only tickets that were eligible to win prizes were those that had the actual winning numbers on them.
Players who did claim a prize under the incorrect sequence are allowed to keep their winnings, the Lottery advised. 3,998 players won a Powerball prize ranging from $4 top $200 under the correct numbers, for a total of $24,382 in winnings paid out to Iowa players from Monday's drawing.
Neubauer said the number of false winning tickets that held the incorrect combination was less than the number of tickets that had the actual winning combination. The Lottery is not concentrating on the total payout for the incorrect numbers because they are ineligible to claim a prize at this point, but they are still looking into the number of tickets that were cashed during the brief period they were eligible.
The "human error" that caused the slip-up involves a checks and balances system the Iowa Lottery has in place to report the correct numbers from the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), the organization that operates the Powerball game.
This process is done by hand. When the Iowa Lottery receives the winning numbers from MUSL, two Iowa Lottery staff members in two different locations manually enter those numbers into the Iowa Lottery central gaming system. The check and balance there is that, ideally, both staff members should independently enter the same exact number sequence each time to ensure that more than one set of human eyes is verifying and accurately reporting the results. In this case, both individuals verified the wrong set of numbers, the Double Play numbers, as the regular Powerball results.
The Lottery's central gaming system is what connects all lottery terminals and self-service kiosks across the state. Whatever winning numbers for a drawing are entered into the central gaming system are essentially synchronized with all these player- and retailer-facing services. That's why Iowan players with the incorrect winning numbers were able to successfully scan a ticket and claim a prize.
"We have redundancy in that system where one person in one location and another person in another location enters the numbers that is designed to be a double-check and a check and balance in the process, and unfortunately both people who were in two different locations both entered the incorrect numbers this time," Neubauer explained to Lottery Post. "There is always a learning opportunity in these situations, as tough as it can be, but we're certainly looking at how we can make improvements as we move ahead."
Neubauer also explained that each state has their own set of practices to verify and report results from MUSL, but it's important to note that every state's procedures has been specifically approved by MUSL as part of their own review of security standards.
A big reason why the Iowa Lottery validates and posts results by hand is because it involves a human element of verification as opposed to computer automation, which can be susceptible to it's own set of unique problems.
"It's a double-edged sword — people have concerns about automation and machine gaming and how involved computers are in the lottery process," Neubauer related. "There's a check and a balance there, and any system you put in place has errors involved — nothing is fool proof."