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October 1, 2023, 10:20 am
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Petition for True Lottery Drawings
There is an alarming trend among government-sponsored lotteries to change lottery draw procedures from using a mechanical drawing device to using computer-generated numbers.
Mechanical drawing machines, such as the ping-pong ball machines we're all familiar with from TV broadcasts, provide a physical and auditable means of ensuring a fair and truly random lottery drawing.
On the other hand, with computerized drawing results, the state lottery employs one or more computers to generate a "random" sequence of numbers. Someone presses a button, and on the operator's computer screen the lottery results instantly appear. Wait a minute, I have a few questions!
- What just happened that created those numbers?
How can we be sure those numbers were truly random?
Don't we use computers specifically because they are non-random?
So why are the states moving to computerized results?
The states claim that they save money by using computers, thereby returning more revenue to the state budgets. However, as we'll explain, this is not necessarily true. Furthermore, utilizing computers can actually harm the process, the public's confidence in the results, and ultimately the lottery revenues.
- First, computers are not truly random. In fact, in our society they are relied upon so heavily because of their unswerving consistency. Therefore, generating a random number is something that has to be simulated in a computer. And depending on how well that simulation is programmed, the computer can begin to produce patterns of numbers — rather than random numbers — and possibly favor some numbers over others.
Computer hacking is a term that has entered the daily lexicon because of its prevalence within every aspect of computers. Hackers can produce code that goes undetected for long periods of time, and causes unseen problems. Why do the state lotteries think that they are immune from hacking, when some of the most secure computers in the world have been hacked into? Worse, a state employee "on the take" could insert malicious computer code into the drawing process that could specify the exact numbers that are drawn. A crafty programmer could keep this secret for a long time.
The savings created by computerized drawings is a specious argument. For example, the Missouri Lottery (not to pick on the Missouri Lottery) claims that it will save $80,000 per year by conducting drawings on a computer. But when weighed against annual sales of almost $1 billion, why are they risking the alienation of their player base for such a small amount?
Further, after the lotteries "save" all that money (all $80,000 of it), they go and spend additional money to create fancy computer animation graphics that looks like a cartoon version of a ping-pong ball machine lottery drawing. So what do we draw from this? Perhaps the lottery knows that players want lottery draw machines, and their fancy graphics are supposed to appease the players and make them feel better about the results. What other reason would there be to spend all that money they just saved by not actually having a real drawing? In fact, why not just have a real drawing?
As the state lotteries stop using mechanical drawing machines and instead present cartoon representations of the drawings, the public loses the ability to see the actual drawing on live broadcast television. While the state lotteries may see a live broadcast of a drawing as unnecessary overhead, many people view it as an essential way to maintain their confidence in fair drawings.
We are not aware of any objective studies conducted by the states to determine the fallout of moving to drawings-by-computer. Perhaps the states fear the consequences of opening their practices to public scrutiny?
The utter lack of federal standards for conducting lottery drawings has opened up this can of worms. By allowing the states to determine what constitutes a random number, disparities in drawing procedures among the states is opening the door for fraudsters to enter.
The federal government needs to step in because there is so much federal money at stake. All lottery prizes are taxable income by the federal government, and with billions of dollars in taxable prizes every year, a crisis in player confidence can directly impact the government's revenues.
With 14 states already on the computerized drawing bandwagon, it is time to put a halt to this practice before it's too late.
Most importantly, Lottery Post has always tried to be a voice of reason in the lottery industry. We do not buy into conspiracy theories, and we would never sponsor a petition that smacked of conspiracy. We are doing this because we feel the state lotteries are making a big mistake by going to computerized drawings. They are not bad people with ill intentions: they are listening to the wrong advice, or perhaps not listening to their most fervent players. Whatever you want to call it, they are making a gross miscalculation.
We urge you to sign the petition now, and send a clear message to Washington: that they need to put a stop to computerized lottery drawings, and impose federal guidelines on how lottery drawings are to be conducted.
— Editor, Lottery Post