With all the proper protocols in place, you’d assume that the live lottery draws on TV would be sacrosanct and impossible to rig, wouldn’t you? That’s not always the case.
For many people, a lottery win is something that can only be dreamed of, a passage to a life free of worry and debt, and so lots of consumers will play just for the slim chance that they might win enough to make sure they never have to have financial concerns. Assuming that what they enter is a fair contest with no chance of any fraudulent activity taking place once the ticket has been purchased, of course!
However, can a lottery draw be rigged – and if so, what are the consequences for the people involved? Here, we investigate this phenomenon and the issues surrounding rigging big money wins.
The Irish Lotto Illusion
Last month, the Irish Lottery found itself in hot water after the regular draw appeared to show one of the lotto balls had two different numbers on it. The actual draw, which occurred live on Saturday 7th October seemed to show that ball number 38 also had the number 33 on it too.
Social media users took to Twitter to express their concern and their disdain. “Well it was 38 then magically changed to 33,” noticed one user, whilst another slightly more sympathetic Tweeter commented, “I bet that ball has been manufactured wrong and it has two different numbers on it and nobody realized”.
After the draw took place, Irish Lotto chiefs were quick to release a statement to clarify the integrity of the draw, saying “A brief reflection of light during filming caused an illusion and some players to think there were two numbers on ball 38. This was not the case. The weight and size of all Lotto balls, and the numbers, are strictly checked in advance of each draw.” They also said that the draws were always strictly monitored and independently witnessed by their auditors, from the finance conglomerate KPMG.
However, some Tweeters were not convinced by this response, not buying the idea that the draw was ruined by a trick of the light, adding that “National lottery auditors KPMG should have gone to Specsavers. There are two numbers on the ball – 38 & 33.”
Serbia’s Number Is Up…
The Irish Lotto incident wasn’t the first time a lottery draw has been called into disrepute. Back in 2015, a scandal erupted over a live lottery draw in Serbia, when one of the correct numbers from the draw appeared on the TV screen and streamed to millions of viewers across the country before it was actually drawn.
Many people from across the country, including unemployed and older people for whom the lottery is their only chance of gaining some financial security, looked on in horror as the penultimate ball from the draw came out as twenty-seven, but appeared on the TV graphic as twenty-one. The next ball drawn was…yes, you’ve guessed it…number twenty-one.
After the incident, an inquiry was launched and the Serbian prime minister, Aleksandar Vucic, gave a news conference to an angry media, at which he said: “If there was any criminal activity these people will answer to the law. The path to prison is very short.”
Six people were questioned in relation to the incident, with Police trying to ascertain whether or not the winning numbers from the draw had been rigged in advance.
However, the state-run lottery company that is responsible for running and marketing the draws in Serbia commented that as far as they were concerned the draw would stand. Chiefs of the business blamed a ‘technical error’ which had been caused by the worker who was in control of the screen graphics for TV broadcasting that night. Another executive from the same lottery company commented that it was just a simple case of coincidence that the graphic that appeared on the screen too early had the same number as the one that was eventually drawn.
After the incident, State Lottery Serbia said in a statement that the director of the company Aleksandar Vulovic had tendered his resignation and left the company for moral reasons, but that he himself still maintained the draw was completely regular with no cause for real concern.
Pennsylvania 6-5-Oh, oh, no…
Going back to the year 1980 we find one of the first attempts at one of these number-rigging scams. The Pennsylvania State Lottery was hit by scandal after the Lottery Announcer Nick Perry decided he wanted the Good Life for himself, after becoming tired of seeing other people win and not getting any of the action.
He devised a plan to rig the Daily Numbers game – in which people playing had to match three different numbers to win. Perry managed to get hold of the lottery drum and swap out all the standard balls for weighted ones. He did this to make sure only the numbers four and six would appear in draws. This reduced the number of possible winning combinations of numbers to eight.
Cue an ordinary day in April 1980, and with a jackpot of $ 3.5 million, the number 666 was drawn. Suspicious lottery officials checked out the draw, the weighted balls were discovered and Perry’s sorry tale unraveled. He has been jailed for his misdemeanors and the story inspired the film “Lucky Numbers” starring John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow in the year 2000.
The Italian Job…
Our next story concerns the Italian lottery – and to be more specific the Milanese draw. During the 1990s, it’s believed that bent police officers and Mafioso managed to scam and cream off over £110 million worth of lottery money over a ‘winning’ streak of a number of years throughout the decade before they were finally caught out and punished!
One of the most outrageous ways the fraudsters managed the draw was to bribe children to put on loose-fitting blindfolds and ‘pick’ the right numbers from the draw so that the criminals could win.
Other methods they tried were to paint some of the winning balls with sticky varnish so they were easier to pick up, and also to alter the temperature of the balls in the lotto draw so that children knew which ones to pick (it is believed that one ball was so hot that a child’s hand actually got burned).
Money or the lure of winning big can make people behave in the strangest ways, as these stories above have shown.