70% of Texas Lottery Sales Came From Scratch Offs ... Last Year ... $2+ Billion ...

Thank Gawd ...
Major Media's Are Finally Investigating & Reporting
The Truth About Those Scratch Tickets ...

Posted: Monday, Feb 21, 2005
Revised: Feb 21, 2005 - 3:20 PM - New story Added

Texas Lottery knew about the problems with "Set For Life" scratch
ticket - but continued to sell the tickets anyway. Read 2/21/05
entry on the "Daily Page" for all the details.
Click here.

News 4 WOAI TV - San Antonio, TX

Scratch Off Rip Offs?
Your chance of winning big bucks from a lottery scratch off
ticket could be zero! What are your chances of winning
the top prize? Or is the Texas Lottery Commission
playing players?

San Antonio Trouble Shooter Brian Collister Investigates
(Watch this newscast, Click here)

Isidora enjoys scratch off lottery tickets, in fact she buys several tickets at least 3 times a week. While talking with the Trouble Shooters Isidora buys 10 one dollar tickets of her favorite game “Diamond Dash”. She’s hoping to win big, “I'm gonna win someday-someday I'm gonna win. I know!”

At times she's been lucky Isidora says her winnings have included $80 and $100.

But players aren't the only ones cashing in. Scratch off tickets generate big bucks for Texas.

Last year sales rose to $2.3 billion dollars-- making up 70 percent of the lottery's revenue.

But is it fair to players when tickets continue to be sold even "after" the top prizes have been claimed?

Isidora doesn't think so, “…I expect that if I'm gonna buy twenty dollars in tickets in dollar tickets - I expect to win big.”

For the answer we went to Texas Lottery Commissioner Reagan Greer. He says players need to know the games are set up to be entertaining, “When you buy a scratch off ticket it's not just about the top prize it's about the game as a whole.”

Greer also explains, “It doesn't say win that amount it says win up to an amount. We're clear about that on the front of the ticket.”

Which is true, but the Trouble Shooters found out some scratch off tickets continue to be sold for more than a year even after the top prizes are gone.

This is also stated on the back of each ticket. But when we asked players if they were aware of this most said no. woai did some checking and right now there are 10 scratch off games with no "top" prizes left.

We also learned not all states have the same lottery rules. For example in California and Massachusetts players don't need to worry if any top prizes are left.

Lottery officials in those states pull scratch off games once the top prizes are claimed, but this only happened after players threatened to file lawsuits.

San Antonio Math Professor and longtime lottery critic Gerald Busald, likes this idea and wishes Texas would do the same, “I think it would be nice if they had to pull the tickets when there are no top prizes left.”

Busald also thinks scratch off players need to know more before they play, “It's like the odds are really bad once that top prize is gone.”

A group of players from the Corpus Christi area are hoping to improve the odds. Last June they filed a class action lawsuit against the Texas Lottery Commission and the two companies contracted to run the games.

According to their lawyer, Bill Edwards; they want all stores to post scratch off game results so players know which prizes remain.

While Busald agrees with the idea he's not sure it will help, “I don't know how many players would pay attention to it because if they're addicted they don't really care. Their joy is scratching them off, win or lose.”

During our investigation the Trouble Shooters visited several San Antonio stores; we found that some posted results while others didn't.

Trouble Shooter Brian Collister asks, “Why doesn't the commission require the information be posted so players know their chances.”

Greer answers, “That's actually the first time that questions come to my attention,” then finishes by saying “My answer would be we're going to look into that.”

Players wanting more information have to call the Texas Lottery hotline or visit the website, something the Lottery Commissioner urges everyone to do, “If you're going to buy a ticket do some homework about it.”

When we asked avid scratch off player Isidora if she would ever call the hotline she quickly responded “No I don't that's just a waste of my time. I just go and by the ticket and if I win I win that's it."

Because of our investigation the Texas Lottery Commissioner says he will look into requiring every store post the fliers. We’ll let you know what is decided.

In the meantime you can click here to view the remaining prizes for current lottery scratch off games.

To contact the Trouble Shooters email us at troubleshooters@woai.com

Watch the newscast, Click here.

Team 4 Investigates Instant Lottery Games
Lottery tickets -- even the instant kind -- don't last forever.
Not knowing about that expiration date could ruin your lucky day.

Action News 4 Pittsburgh
(The following report by Team 4 investigator Jim Parsons first aired Feb. 14,
2005, on Channel 4 Action News at 5 p.m.)

If you've ever played a scratch-off lottery game, you have plenty of company here in western Pennsylvania.

Instant lottery ticket sales last year were $12 million in Beaver County, $14 million in Butler County, $36 million in Westmoreland County, $15 million in Washington County and $97 million -- the highest in Pennsylvania -- in Allegheny County.

Ed Mahlman, Pennsylvania Lottery director: "They're almost half our sales and they are easy to play. There's no drawing. There's a market for that."

That market is huge -- almost $1 billion in sales statewide, just for scratch-off games.

But the players who are plunking down the bucks have no idea that, in some cases, they have no chance of winning the big prize because the big prize has already been won.

Team 4 went shopping a few weeks ago for scratch-off games and took a hidden camera along. At store after store, we found a $5 Doughman Dollars game for sale -- the same game the Pennsylvania Lottery promoted heavily in December.

Doughman Dollars promises 10 top prizes of $50,000. By late January, when we found it still for sale in store after store, all 10 of those prizes had already been claimed, but players didn't know that.

It's not just this game. It happens all the time.

Mahlman: "When the top prize is won, we immediately take steps to set an end date for that product."

But while the lottery is taking those steps, unsuspecting players are still buying.

At Chow Chow's grocery in Plum, we found Doughman Dollars and three other instant games that were expired. Months earlier, the lottery division had terminated Lucky Loot, Supercash and 3 Times Lucky. By law, these tickets weren't allowed to be sold any more. But here they were.

Parsons: "I was just in here and I purchased some lottery tickets. Three of these games are expired."

Anwar Durrani, lottery retailer: "Expired?"

Parsons: "These games are terminated. It's illegal to sell these games after the termination date. Did you know that?"

Durrani: "I really don't know about that."

He said he also didn't know that Doughman Dollars was out of top prizes, even though it was still a valid game.

Durrani: "There must be lower prizes if the major prizes are gone."

Parsons: "Yes. The big prizes are all gone, though."

Durrani: "Even if the big prizes are gone, they have to finish those tickets, which we have. They do have some prizes on that."

Parsons: "But do you think people would buy Doughman Dollars if they knew that all the big prizes were gone?"

Durrani: "I don't think so, but still, we are selling. Believe me."

He says he keeps selling instant tickets until they're all gone because the lottery doesn't tell him when the top prizes are claimed or when the games are terminated.

Other retailers we spoke with, including a beer distributor in Elizabeth, agreed.

Parsons: "Does the lottery ever notify you when a game has been terminated? Do they let you know that?"

Karen Rischitelli, lottery retailer: "They let us know when they're sending the lottery tickets out. As far as being terminated, no."

The lottery director disputes that, and he claims that his agency notifies retailers when the last top prize has been claimed. But why doesn't the lottery immediately suspend ticket sales when that happens?

Mahlman: "There can be an audience for the product among some of their customers."

Parsons: "What kind of an audience would there be?"

Mahlman: "Maybe for lower-tier prizes."

Parsons: "Do you think that customers would want to buy a ticket?"

Mahlman: "No, from our point of view, we want to get the word out quickly that the top prizes are gone."

Here's how we figured out that these four tickets we purchased were sure-fire losers:

We got our information by going to the Pennsylvania Lottery Web site, www.palottery.com, where there's a listing of all instant games.

We checked out all four games and found that, while most games have links to give you more information about that game, the four that we purchased had no links. There's no more information.

After checking with the lottery, we confirmed that if their Web site has no more links on a game, it means there are no more top prizes remaining. But you have to figure that out on your own.

Kathy Bush, of Uniontown, figured out how to use the lottery's Web site. She especially likes the feature that tells her how many prizes remain for each instant game. She has won the top prize four different times.

Bush: "What I do is I go on there and see what is left. If there's a lot left, then you know there is a good possibility of winning something. If there's not a lot left, you just move to another game."

Bush is not the typical lottery player. Most players won't check the Internet before making a purchase. They want to know they have a fair shot at winning the big prize.

Ben Gross, lottery player: "I think that's a bait and switch. They're offering you a prize that's not available."

Desiree Jefferson, lottery player: "I'm going to stop playing. I shouldn't be playing anyway. You're not supposed to gamble. But I guess I'm going to stop for sure now that I know I'm not going to win the jackpot."

Something extraordinary has happened since we interviewed the director of the Pennsylvania Lottery about 10 days ago for this story. The lottery has contacted all 7,700 retailers in Pennsylvania to tell them to pull all expired games off their shelves. Also, the lottery has improved its Web site so you can now find out when all the top prizes for a game are gone.

The lottery admits it wasn't doing a good enough job of communicating with its retailers. They think they have that problem fixed now.

States That Stop Instant Games
- The Arizona Lottery has a policy to end the games after all top prizes are claimed.
Idaho - The Idaho Lottery ends instant games once all top prizes have been claimed.
Indiana - The Hoosier Lottery commences the process for ending scratch-off games once all of the top prizes have been claimed. However, players are warned on the back of each scratch-off ticket that tickets may remain on sale after the last top prize is claimed during the game closing process.

Click for Full List

States That Allow Instant Games

Colorado - It is the intent of the Lottery that Instant (Scratch) ticket games will remain available for sale to the public so long as one or more of the following provisions are met: there are tickets left in retailer inventory, it's economically beneficial to the Lottery to continue selling the game, there are sufficient prizes remaining in the game.
Florida - The Florida Lottery continues selling games after the top prizes have been claimed because there are other valuable lower-tier prizes left.
Maine - If there are significant secondary prizes remaining, a game will remain on the market after all the top prizes have been won.
Michigan - Instant games are available for their full run because hundreds and hundreds of
mid-tier prizes are available throughout.

Click for a Full List

Ask Mudd: Winning The Lottery

February 10, 2005

Texas - C.T. from Lubbock asks, "I play lotto games all the time and I`ve seen the numbers, but what are my chances of winning really?"

I can tell you a Lubbock man won $10,000 just last week on a scratch-off game. There are winners, but you might have a better chance of finding $1 million.

Millions hope to strike it rich every week playing Mega Millions and the Texas Lottery. But your odds of winning "the big one" can be as high as one in 135 million.

Thousands more prefer the little tickets with huge potential. Adrian Amaya spends $50 a week on scratch-offs.

"I play for a dream, man. I`m trying to get me a house or something," says Amaya.

There are dozens of games costing from a dollar to $30 with payoffs from a few dollars to a few million.

But is the hope worth the risk? The disclaimer on the back of one card says the "game may continue to be sold even when all the top prizes have been claimed." Check the Texas Lottery website to see which games have already given away their top prizes. Right now, there are seven games where you`re scratching without a chance.

A lawsuit has been filed against the company that handles the lottery ticket games. It claims there is a conspiracy to sell as many scratch-off games as possible, even where`s no chance to win the biggest prize.

Lotto officials say it`s their policy to pull a game only after 90% of the available tickets have been sold.

Are Your Lottery Odds Zero?

By: Jennifer Leslie
Last Modified: 2/14/2005 6:47:49 PM

Georgia - Most players know the odds of getting rich from the Georgia Lottery are slim, but a 11Alive News investigation found you have no chance of winning the top cash prize when you play some scratch-off games.

One of those games is "5 Karat Gold," a $1 instant game. Records from the Georgia Lottery show the game has no top prizes left because they were all claimed by mid-November.

"If I already knew that, then there's no way I'd buy this ticket," said player Brian Wright. "That would be a false investment."

Additional records from October show a $100,000 game called "Cash In" and a $10,000 game called "Groovy Bucks" with no top prizes, either.

Yet in all three cases, the Georgia Lottery kept selling the games.

It's not unusual.

11Alive News found 11 states also sell instant games after the top prizes are gone. But 11 others, including Tennessee and Virginia, stop games when someone claims the last top prize.

"If the Georgia Lottery wishes to continue to sell the game, I think the information that there are no longer top prizes in existence should be forthcoming," said former player Tim Schabel. He criticized the way the Georgia Lottery runs instant games in an editorial he wrote last fall after he called the lottery hotline to get information about top prizes.

"I got the runaround," he said. "They initially said, `Well, we don't have that information.' I said, `Of course, you have that information.' They said, `Well, we really can't give it to you.'"

But a few weeks ago, the Georgia Lottery began posting top prize numbers on its Web site.

It shows all of the scratch-off games currently on sale have some top prizes remaining. Yet 25 percent of the games have only one top prize left.

"You know a lot of players play our games not only to win the top prize, but keep in mind 80 percent to 90 percent of prizes available may be in that second- or third-tier level of prizes," said J.B. Landroche, communications director of the Georgia Lottery.

11 Alive News talked with the head of the mathematics department at Georgia Tech who told us you can improve your odds of winning a top prize by choosing games that have more top prizes left.

All of Georgia's instant games include the following disclaimer on the back: prizes are subject to prior sales.

Some stores may still be selling "5 Karat Gold," but the lottery is now in the process of ending the game. "Cash In" and "Groovy Bucks" have already ended.

Report Finds No Top Prizes Left In 25 Percent Of Games

Wendy Saltzman, WKMG-Local 6 News
February 8, 2005

ORLANDO, Fla. -- If you are playing to win the Florida Lottery, you may be playing for nothing, according to a Local 6 News investigation.

Local 6 Investigation has discovered top prizes in some of the lottery's scratch off games may be nonexistent, and you may still be buying tickets with zero chances of winning the top prize.

Lottery Commission spokesperson Leslie Steele says scratch off tickets are big sellers because, "People like taking chances." In fact, multi-millions are spent each year by players hoping to cash in on an instant fortune. But the games, Steele concedes, are a roll of the dice.

An investigation by Problem Solver Wendy Saltzman found there are no top prizes remaining in at least 25 percent of all of the Florida Lottery's scratch off games.

"There are 14 games out there that don't have top prizes," Steele said.

Scratch-off players were outraged when they learned what we uncovered

"That's a big scam, not a little one," lottery player Al Simeina said. "I'm never buying them again."

Behind the scratch off game is a fine line between a quick fix win and an impossible losing gamble. That's because in some of the games, the grand prizes have already been won.

But the fact that you can't win isn't stopping the Florida Lottery Commission from continuing to sell you tickets for a losing game. Steele says, "Consumers need to read the fine print."

Player Dino Dipisa was buying a $20 lottery ticket when we told him the results of our investigation.

Dipisa was surprised. He said, "The whole concept is to win the big prize and that obviously doesn't exist anymore."

But spokesperson Leslie Steele defended the practice of the Lottery Commission saying, "Everyone doesn't play scratch off games for the half a million dollars. Our players play for the entertainment and the good products and services we offer."

Saltzman also discovered it's not just the grand prizes that are on the list of nonexistent cash winnings.
In nine of the games, Local 6 found there is not even a chance of winning the top runner-up payouts.

Steele said the commission is not misleading its players by selling them tickets to a game with a grand prize that's already been won. Once you buy the ticket, Steel said, you can read the disclaimer on the bottom line.

"You look down a little lower when you are scratching your ticket, there may not be any top prizes remaining," Steele said.

Another player said, "It's just a waste of money."

In all the scratch-off games Local 6 played for this report, Saltzman only won $2 after sinking $17 into the scratch-off cash pot.

If you want to know what's in it for you, we'll show you what the Lottery Commission won't.

Click here <http://images.ibsys.com/2005/0204/4167188.pdf> to see a list of all the lottery scratch off games, including the main prizes that are remaining and the losing games when they're already gone.

By Dawn Nettles
The Lotto Report

Legislators turn deaf ears when legitimate lottery complaints face them. They literally ignore cold hard evidence. They do sometimes spank the lottery's hands but then they continue to allow the lotteries to rip us off in many, many ways.

It appears to me that our elected officials think the "money" brought in by lotteries is worth the complaints they receive but our elected officials have failed to look at the REAL bottom line - mainly the social costs associated with gambling -

Until the day comes that our elected officials recognize the real costs or until YOU quit supporting state run lottery games, the lotteries will continue to operate in the manner to which they do. Do know however, that IF the private sector sold such products to consumers, the Attorney Generals would shut them down and call their operations a scam.

Oddly, the AG's have NO authority over state run lotteries. Ever wonder WHY?

I'd suggest you ask your legislators.

Texas Lottery knew about the problems with "Set For Life" scratch
ticket - but continued to sell the tickets anyway. Read 2/21/05
entry on the "Daily Page" for all the details.
Click here.

See how many Texas scratch tickets remain unclaimed.
List kept current! Click here (pdf).

The Lotto Report
Dawn Nettles
P. O. Box 495033
Garland, Texas 75049-5033
(972) 686-0660
(972) 681-1048 Fax

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