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Aug 20, 2013, 9:30 pm

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Arizona Lottery

This is why computer­ized drawings are bad

Undiscovered problem existed for 2 months — some tickets had no chance of winning

The lottery had no idea until players started complaining

By Todd Northrop

Due to an error in the computerized drawing system for the Arizona Lottery Pick 3 game between June 10 and Aug. 3, replacement tickets are being offered to eligible people who purchased tickets during that time frame, according to a press release.

Pick 3 is an Arizona Lottery draw game in which players pick three numbers and can win a prize up to $500. Tickets cost $1 each and drawings are held every day, Monday through Saturday.

On Aug. 5, the Arizona Lottery discovered there was an issue in the Pick 3 programming code that prevented the numbers eight and nine from being drawn in certain positions between June 10 and Aug. 3. This error resulted in 92.3 percent of tickets purchased having a better chance to win, and caused 7.7 percent to have no chance of winning.

From a trust perspective, perhaps the most frightening part is that because the lottery cannot actually see the drawings taking place — like they can with traditional ball machines — nobody at the lottery had a clue that there was a problem for nearly two months.  It was only when lottery players started complaining that the lottery had an inkling that a problem existed.

"Can you imagine our concern when a Pick 3 player just casually mentioned to us they weren't seeing as many nines lately on the game, I mean that's a red flag," said Jeff Hatch-Miller with the Arizona Lottery.

Computerized drawings occur inside a computer, which is supposed to generate random numbers.  But because a computer program cannot be "watched" like a traditional lottery ball drawing, the computer operator simply trusts that the computer is functioning perfectly, and that the drawing numbers that suddenly appeared on the computer screen were generated randomly.

With a traditional ball machine, it is simple for any layman to see when a problem occurs, because they can watch the drawing and see that in fact the right number of balls are in the drum.

A problem with ball drawings happens rarely — once in a long while.  But it does not happen undiscovered for months at a time.

In the case of this latest computerized drawing problem, the Arizona Lottery is offering replacement tickets for any Pick 3 ticket purchased during that time period using the number eight and nine on all of the Pick 3 play types listed in the chart below.  (Click the chart to open in full-size.)

As soon as the error was suspected, the Arizona Lottery immediately assembled an investigative team to research the issue.

"Once the error was identified, it was immediately corrected," said Jeff Hatch-Miller, Director of the Arizona Lottery. "The Arizona Lottery assures our players that the issue has been remedied, and the Pick 3 drawings will continue to move forward with the utmost integrity."

Beginning Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, the Arizona Lottery will be offering eligible players three options to receive replacement tickets equal to the sales price of the affected tickets purchased. If numbers were selected by the player, the replacement tickets will reflect the same numbers. If the tickets were a Quick Pick, then the newly issued tickets will be Quick Pick, but replacements will have different numbers than the originals.

Unfortunately, the lottery will only provide replacement tickets for those players who kept the original tickets purchase.  For many people who commonly discard losing lottery tickets, there is no remedy for the tickets they purchased with no chance of winning.

Option 1: In Person

Players must bring their affected tickets to the Arizona Lottery offices in Phoenix or Tucson prior to Sept. 30. Replacement tickets equal to the sales price of the affected tickets purchased will be issued. Tickets must be relinquished upon replacement.

Phoenix Office:
4740 E. University Drive
Phoenix AZ 85034

Tucson Office:
4010 E. Grant Road
Tucson, AZ 85712

Option 2: In-State Mail

Players must mail affected tickets to the Arizona Lottery (Phoenix office only) to receive replacement tickets equal to the sales price of the affected tickets purchased. Tickets will be printed and mailed via U.S. Postal Service prior to the draw, but received after the draw. Check the winning numbers for the draw date printed on the tickets.

Mail to:
Attn: Ticket Replacement, Arizona Lottery
P.O. Box 2913
Phoenix, AZ 85062-2913

Option 3: Out-of-State Mail

Out-of-state players must mail affected tickets to receive a letter offering replacement tickets. The original letter with the embossed Lottery seal must be presented in person to the Arizona Lottery offices by close of business on December 31, 2013.

Mail to:
Attn: Ticket Replacement, Arizona Lottery
P.O. Box 2913
Phoenix, AZ 85062-2913

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