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Missouri Lottery Ignites Controversy with Computerized Drawings

Missouri LotteryMissouri Lottery: Missouri Lottery Ignites Controversy with Computerized Drawings

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Falling in lockstep with a controversial industry trend, the Missouri Lottery decided to change its lottery drawings from mechanical lottery ball machines to a random number generator computer system.

Opponents of the computerized drawings say that computers cannot achieve the true randomness of a physical drawing mechanism, mainly due to computers' inherent non-random properties.

In addition, with computer hacking, viruses, and tampering on the rise, concerned citizens worry about the potential of abuse or fraud.

Computerized drawings are typically accomplished using two or three personal computers isolated in a special room.  When the drawing time arrives, instead of drawing numbered ping pong balls from a spinning drum, one of the computers chooses the winning numbers using program code designed to simulate random numbers.

A Random Number Generator (RNG) works by starting with a seed number and performing a series of complex calculations on that number.  The result of the calculations is a "random" number.  However, since the computer is performing a fixed series of calculations, opponents say that the computer will tend to generate patterns of numbers, instead of a true random sampling.

Most RNGs are programmed to periodically change the seed value, which will theoretically alter any patterns created.  But this is not enough to satisfy those who also link the practice of computerized drawings to the potential for abuse.

Critics say that crafty computer hackers could clandestinely alter the computer code to produce whatever drawing results they wish.  Further, if computer hackers are able to bypass anticipated "checksum" tamper detection, a breach could go undetected.

Video monitoring of the drawing process would not reveal the inner workings of the program code, and is therefore not a viable means of validating the results.  In fact, if the program code is compromised, video monitoring could provide a false sense of security that the drawing is operating properly.

Another tactic of state lotteries to persuade the public is to cite decreased annual costs of computerized drawings.  Again, opponents are not impressed.

With the Missouri Lottery estimating cost savings of $80,000 annually, critics say that decreased sales due to suspicions of the drawing process could easily eclipse that figure.  Additionally, with total 2003 sales of $708.5 million, an $80,000 savings hardly seems worth the gamble.

The controversy surrounding computerized drawings has been voiced in other states as well.

In Indiana, the cause has been taken on by State Rep. Robert Alderman, R-Fort Wayne, who is investigating the state's number-selection process.  (Are Computerized Lottery Drawings Truly Random?, Lottery Post, June 21, 2004)

Despite the controversy, the computerized drawings appear to be gaining momentum.

Below we present the full text of the Missouri Lottery press release regarding the state's recent changes to their drawings and games.







Lottery Makes Changes to Drawings, Pay Outs, Features

During the next couple of weeks, the Missouri Lottery will be making some changes to its drawings and daily on-line games to add convenience, enhance security and save costs. The changes include converting to an automated drawing system for daily Numbers Games drawings, adding a midday drawing for daily Numbers Games, raising some Pick 3 and Pick 4 payouts, introducing a four-week bonus ball promotion for the midday Pick 3 drawings, and eliminating the Xtra play feature.

Drawings

Beginning July 19, an automated drawing system will be used to select the winning numbers for the Missouri Lotterys Pick 3, Pick 4, SHOW ME 5 Paydown and Lotto games. The winning numbers will then be broadcast using three-dimensional animation on participating television stations.

The new drawing system, which utilizes computers and random-number generation to select winning numbers, will enable the Lottery to improve security and reduce costs by eliminating expensive mechanical draw equipment.

The three-dimensional draw show will be broadcast at the regular time 6:57 p.m. on participating stations, including KTVI Fox 2 in St. Louis. Video of the automated drawings will also be streamed on the Missouri Lotterys Web site after the drawings.

Gary Gonder, director of communications for the Missouri Lottery, said discussion to convert to the new draw system started when the Lottery began researching the costs of replacing its aging drawing equipment. He said the conversion is expected to save the Lottery more than $192,000 in equipment replacement costs and $80,000 annually in production expenses.

Midday Drawings

Also, beginning July 26, a second daily drawing Midday draws will be introduced for the Lotterys three daily games, Pick 3, Pick 4 and SHOW ME 5 Paydown. The Midday draws, which will be held at 12:57 p.m., will be conducted using the new draw system, and they will be streamed to the Lotterys Web site.

Gonder noted that the Missouri Lottery has had two years of experience using computerized-number drawings since the introduction of Club Keno in May 2002.

Those drawings happen every five minutes, 21 hours, every day, and we have found that computerized drawings work, Gonder said about Club Keno.

The Lotterys new automated system utilizes a variety of new technology to improve the security of the drawings. The new computerized system software is loaded onto three independent computers that are housed in a secure draw room located next to the Lotterys main computer room at headquarters in Jefferson City. These draw computers are not connected to the Internet or any other network source. The room has no other phone or data lines from which to send or receive information.

The system will be operated by a draw manager and an independent auditor, who will conduct a series of system pre-tests and the actual draws, Gonder said. Prior to conducting pre-tests and draws, the new draw system uses special software to determine if anyone has tampered with the draw equipment since the last draw.

After confirming that no activity has taken place since the last draw, the draw manager will conduct a pre-test for all games to ensure the random-number generator is working properly.

Only then will the drawings take place. The new system is designed to permit only one drawing of a game per draw date. Only the designated drawing personnel and independent auditor will be allowed in the room during a drawing, and every drawing is video monitored by the computer room operator.

Security of the drawings has always been of the utmost importance, Gonder said. Weve taken additional steps with this system to ensure that security and integrity of the drawings are maintained.

Video monitors are located outside of the draw room to allow anyone, including the general public, to watch the drawings as they occur.

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26 comments. Last comment 12 years ago by CASH Only.
Page 1 of 2

United States
Member #379
June 5, 2002
11296 Posts
Offline
Posted: July 21, 2004, 10:21 am - IP Logged

Hot Lotto (not available in Missouri) draws numbered balls.

    Avatar
    Poway CA (San Diego County)
    United States
    Member #3489
    January 25, 2004
    14120 Posts
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    Posted: July 21, 2004, 10:51 am - IP Logged

    People always think of computers as things that are connected to the internet, so they are worried about hackers getting into the program.  The computers are NOT connected to anywhere outside the room they are in.  There isn't even a telephone line in the room!!

    California does the Daily 3 (twice a day) and the Fantasy 5 (once a day) using computers in the same manner as Missouri.  I agree 100% that the computer can not pick truly random numbers.  This is a long-running discussion (argument??) in the field of mathmatics as well as cryptography.  But we agree that the numbers can not be random, but random enough so that the bias that is in the program can not be detected.  The discussion revolves around the question of "Is there anything in the world that is truly random?"  That question starts a feeding frenzy in the two scientific fields I mentioned!

      Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
      Chief Bottle Washer
      New Jersey
      United States
      Member #1
      May 31, 2000
      23273 Posts
      Online
      Posted: July 21, 2004, 1:11 pm - IP Logged

      I have personally hacked into computers that are not connected to anything.  Once you gain physical access to a computer it's easy.  And I'm sure you don't think that the Missouri Lottery has security as good as Fort Knox.

      At least with ballsets, you can physically audit the balls and machines without being a rocket scientist.  However, if someone were to alter the computer code, it could stay hidden for months or years.

       

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

       

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


        United States
        Member #379
        June 5, 2002
        11296 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: July 21, 2004, 3:38 pm - IP Logged

        Bring back the balls!

          Avatar
          Wisconsin
          United States
          Member #1610
          June 3, 2003
          668 Posts
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          Posted: July 21, 2004, 3:52 pm - IP Logged

          Convenience, enhanced security, and cost savings says the Missouri Lottery. Convenience possibly, but in the long run as far as security and the claim of overall cost savings considering those who will probably go elsewhere with their lottery dollars after the switch...I'd say 'nein weise' no way to both. Additionally, I wonder how much that new animated three-dimensional number display system will cost the lottery? Keep the mechancial drawing machines and the numbered drawing balls!

          ... the lottery never fails to surprise!
            MetroPlex's avatar - 619631
            Richmond, VA
            United States
            Member #5360
            July 1, 2004
            93 Posts
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            Posted: July 21, 2004, 3:56 pm - IP Logged

            Computers cannot be trusted.

            MP

            Putting The Damage On.

              Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
              Chief Bottle Washer
              New Jersey
              United States
              Member #1
              May 31, 2000
              23273 Posts
              Online
              Posted: July 21, 2004, 4:02 pm - IP Logged
              Quote: O

               

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

               

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

                Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
                Chief Bottle Washer
                New Jersey
                United States
                Member #1
                May 31, 2000
                23273 Posts
                Online
                Posted: July 21, 2004, 4:03 pm - IP Logged
                Quote: O

                 

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

                 

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

                  MetroPlex's avatar - 619631
                  Richmond, VA
                  United States
                  Member #5360
                  July 1, 2004
                  93 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: July 21, 2004, 4:09 pm - IP Logged
                  Quote:

                  Putting The Damage On.

                    ducksafloat's avatar - animal duck.jpg
                    Wentzville, Missouri
                    United States
                    Member #2243
                    September 4, 2003
                    8495 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: July 21, 2004, 4:55 pm - IP Logged

                    Hey Todd,



                    Again I s

                      vincejr's avatar - wallace
                      Somewhere in VA
                      United States
                      Member #1944
                      July 29, 2003
                      130 Posts
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                      Posted: July 21, 2004, 6:17 pm - IP Logged

                      Coffee? I didn't get no st

                        Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
                        Chief Bottle Washer
                        New Jersey
                        United States
                        Member #1
                        May 31, 2000
                        23273 Posts
                        Online
                        Posted: July 21, 2004, 6:29 pm - IP Logged

                        John, you're right.  In the same vein, if a bunch of NASA rocket scientists can send a probe all the way to Mars and then make a rounding error that sends the probe crashing into the planet, don't you think a couple of government lottery programmers can make a bug or two (or a security hole)?

                        BTW, absolutely no offense is intended to any government computer programmers - it's definitely not a cut on you, it's a cut on the decision to drop the ball machines.

                         

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

                         

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

                          Rick G's avatar - avatar 1766.jpg
                          FEMA Region V Camp #21
                          United States
                          Member #520
                          July 27, 2002
                          5699 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: July 21, 2004, 7:17 pm - IP Logged

                          There is so much inherent fraud that can accompany computer generated lottery picks, that I will quit playing the game if IL decides to go this route and go back to  collecting stamps and coins....at least they are a relatively honest hobby.

                          To my IL buds, if this happens here, I'm gone and it won't be because of computer problems.

                          Take heed, lotto directors...we don't want your fraudulent approaches to what once was a decent game, even though you take 50% of the proceeds for education....(by the way the 50% goes to the current existing education budget....the now-extra 50% goes to their whims.....did you guys know that?)

                          Don't kill your cash cow lotto-folks.  You're making the casinos and race tracks look a whole lot more appealing.....and one more thing...get your IL budget together...do not threaten lottery winners with late payments while you folks get your fiscal act together.  If I ran my company like that, I'd be fired tomorrow.

                          Shame on all of you lottery directors...I've seen nothing but fraud in your processes lately and a 50% take is unheard of in any form of gambling.  Come back at me, I'm waiting for your responses.  Bunch of BS to me.

                          Posted 4/6:  IL Pick 3 midday and evening until they hit:  555, 347 (str8).


                            Rick G's avatar - avatar 1766.jpg
                            FEMA Region V Camp #21
                            United States
                            Member #520
                            July 27, 2002
                            5699 Posts
                            Offline
                            Posted: July 21, 2004, 7:28 pm - IP Logged

                            PS....What happens when we go to computerized elections?  There are over 250 new viruses detected each month on the internet.  Who's the boss here?...the lame-brain hackers who get off on ruining your $1000 computer investment and/or discount your important vote,  or those of us who wish to fight for our democratic right to vote for our candidate in a fair and accurate manner?

                            I'll pull my chads off cleanly so my vote gets counted....and if it doesn't get counted or goes "computerized", I'm taking to the streets to fight for good old-fashioned 1776 democracy, when it actually counted and meant something.

                            I am not a computer wiz, but I know I can come up with a series of numbers that are extremely unlikely to come in as a three-some.  My more knowlegegable computer wiz's would be the first ones to agree with this statement.

                            Posted 4/6:  IL Pick 3 midday and evening until they hit:  555, 347 (str8).