Lottery Post Exclusive
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.
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.
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.