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Hoosier Lotto in a dry spell

Oct 17, 2007, 7:34 pm

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Indiana Lottery

Players suspicious of computerized drawings

1 Year. 102 Drawings. 0 Jackpots. Players grumble as Indiana lottery players join Tennessee's in their shared disdain for the computerized drawing system.

Steven Haddix didn't cross his fingers or grasp a lucky rabbit's foot after buying tickets Tuesday for tonight's Hoosier Lotto drawing.

Instead, the Indianapolis resident expressed mistrust of the Lotto system, which has gone nearly a year without a jackpot payout.

"I'm a little leery of it," he said after his purchase at Dinner Bell Markets. "It just seems odd. They used to hit more often."

Saturday's drawing marked the 102nd consecutive drawing in the Hoosier Lotto without a jackpot winner. The jackpot was hit last on Oct. 21, when Frank and Beverly Rice, Indianapolis, won $5 million.

With no winners in so many weeks, the jackpot will reach a record $51.5 million for tonight's drawing, twice as large as any lottery prize this week and three times larger than any state jackpot.

The probability of no jackpot winner for such a long time is incredibly small, said Steve McKinley, a probability lecturer at Indiana University.

He estimated the odds of no winner for 51 straight weeks to be a fraction of a percent.

State lottery spokesman Andrew Reed said no one's hit the Hoosier Lotto jackpot simply because no one's picked the right numbers.

"The odds are about one in 12 million of being hit, and it depends on the number of tickets sold and it depends on how lucky people are," Reed said.

Over the same period, there have been 17 winners in the larger Powerball game, which is played in 29 states plus Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. The odds of winning Powerball are about one in 146 million.

About $25.3 million in smaller prizes -- for matching two, three, four or five numbers -- has been won since the last jackpot winner, according to the Hoosier Lottery.

Over the past year, sales have varied from 4.2 million tickets sold in November to 12.8 million sold last month, Reed said. Sales have held steady this month: about 3 million tickets each week.

About 53 percent of ticket proceeds goes to prize money, with the rest going to state programs and operating costs, Reed said.

The long stretch with no big winner isn't unheard of, he said. Since the game started in September 1994, 89 players have won the jackpot.

The previous record jackpot of $42 million was set in June 1999, under Hoosier Lotto's former system of using ball machines to randomly select numbers. The lottery switched to computer-generated numbers in December 2001, while Powerball continues to use ball machines.

Winning Lotto numbers are selected on Wednesday and Saturday evenings by the lottery's computer system, Reed said.

Some customers buying tickets at Dinner Bell Markets, 2835 S. Shelby St., said they think the computer system makes winning difficult.

"It just makes it a little harder to hit," said David Bradley, 58. "That's probably why it's been so long."

Several players have complained about the computerized system, store manager Millie Johnston said.  "There's been a lot of remarks made about that."

 Reed said the computer system randomly generates numbers, with each drawing independent from all others. The equipment was approved by Gaming Laboratories International, which oversees lotteries and casinos worldwide.

Since the system was installed, 33 people have won the jackpot. In 2006, there were seven jackpot winners.

The jackpot increases by $500,000 for each drawing that no one wins.

This amount is not set to change, Reed said, despite the fact that the agency has sold about 90 million of the $1 tickets since the last jackpot winner.

Other customers said they would continue to play regardless of how long the game has gone without a winner.

"I don't even think about it, really," said Gloria Baldwin, 63, Indianapolis. "Just no one's been lucky."

Try your luck

  • Odds of winning the Hoosier Lotto jackpot: 1 in 12,271,512.
  • Number of twice-weekly drawings without a winner: 102.
  • Odds of going so long without a winner: A minuscule fraction of a percent, says Steve McKinley, a lecturer in probability at Indiana University.

Two previous jackpot winners

Oct. 21, 2006: Frank and Beverly Rice, Indianapolis, purchased a $5 million ticket at United Package Liquors, 5510 Emerson Way.

Sept. 16, 2006: The Stewardship Revocable Trust purchased an $11 million ticket at a Village Pantry in Bloomington.

Fewer than 1 per month

Thirty-three people have won the Hoosier Lotto jackpot since Dec. 5, 2001, when the organization switched to computer-generated winning numbers. Here is the number of winners per year:

2002............ Nine

2003............ Four

2004............ Six

2005............ Seven

2006............ Seven

2007............ Zero

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