Dec 16, 2014, 9:36 am
More than 500 players of a lottery scratch-off card filed suit against the game's developer seeking about $250 million in contested prize money.
Confusion over the rules led many to believe they had winning tickets, but those tickets were not honored by the state. The suit contends that the lottery's contractor, GTECH Corporation, owes prize money to the players because they wrote the rules and programmed the scanners to identify the winners.
GTECH Corporation spokeswoman Angela Wiczek said "we believe that the suit has no merit and we'll defend our actions."
Houston attorney Manfred Sternberg, who represents the players, said the rules imply that when people buy a scratch off ticket, they should "win whatever they said we would win."
He said GTECH programmed the computers to deny winning tickets, as defined by the rules. GTECH "programmed the computers that validate the tickets so that even though it looks as though we've won, they've programmed the computers to say that's not a winning ticket," Sternberg said.
The suit says GTECH was made aware of the confusion days after the game's release on Sept. 1, but made no changes to the game rules or scanner software. The game ran for seven weeks before the Texas Lottery Commission pulled it, saying in a statement that it had "received feedback from some players expressing confusion regarding certain aspects of this popular game."
The rule causing confusion concerns a tic-tac-toe game that which had a prize box beneath it, which players can scratch off to reveal a dollar amount. Next to it is box saying 5X.
The rules state: "Reveal a 'money bag' symbol in the 5X box, win five times that prize."
Lottery officials said the five-times multiplier is contingent upon the previous sentence, which explains that players should scratch off a "tic-tac-toe" combination. If they get a tic-tac-toe, they would win the prize amount. And if the card also has a money bag, that would multiply their prize by five, the officials said.
But that is not how the rules read, Sternberg said.
The suit filed in Travis County district court on Tuesday could be joined by another 1,000 players, and the amount sought in the suit will be updated to reflect the unpaid prize money, Sternberg said.
The players plan to seek legislative permission to sue the Texas Lottery Commission as well. The state, under sovereign immunity, cannot be sued without its permission in most cases.
Until or if lawmakers approve its suit, the players will pursue its case against GTECH.
"We don't care who pays it," Sternberg said. "We're trying to get what we believe the lottery told our clients in writing that they would pay."
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