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Arizona Lottery computerized drawing machine generated identical winning numbers

Oct 6, 2017, 12:21 pm

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Arizona Lottery

Machine taken out of service; no explanation offered

Once again computerized lottery drawings are coming under scrutiny as a machine responsible for generating random numbers has done the opposite, generating exact duplicates.

The Arizona Lottery is offering losing ticket refunds or exchanges from four games held over a recent six-day period because a machine used for the drawings generated the same winning numbers in consecutive games.

The games affected are Fantasy 5, Pick 3, All or Nothing, and 5 Card Cash, played from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3, Arizona Lottery officials said.

The Arizona Lottery uses three machines called Random Number Generators, or RNGs, to generate the winning numbers for the games, said Nikki O'Shea, state lottery spokeswoman.

The machines are stand-alone units that are not connected to a network or online system, she said. Two of the machines are managed by Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), which works with Arizona's lottery. The third, which is in Phoenix, is used as a backup, O'Shea said.

MUSL randomly selects which machines will be used for a game's number draw. The machine that caused the problem was selected for the morning draw Sept. 28 and Sept. 30, and evening draw Sept. 29 and Oct. 3, O'Shea said.

The machine, which lottery officials referred to as RNG2, produced the numbers for one game and then generated the exact same numbers in a subsequent game. This happened several times with different games.

For example, in a Fantasy 5 game Sept. 29, the numbers drawn were 1, 4, 8, 12, and 28. The same numbers were generated by the machine when it was used again in the game on Oct. 3.

Duplicate numbers were generated in All or Nothing on Sept. 28 and Sept. 30, and on Sept. 29 and Oct. 3. Pick 3 duplicates were generated Sept. 29 and Oct. 3. 5 Card Cash also was affected during the time period, officials said.

O'Shea said the matter still was being investigated, but the machine has been taken out of use and the other two machines will be used going forward. Additional draw audits also have been added before winning numbers are certified, she said.

Powerball, Mega Millions and The Pick were not affected. (Powerball and Mega Millions are not drawn by the Arizona Lottery.)

"The integrity of our games is paramount to Arizona Lottery.  We have incredible players at Arizona Lottery and we appreciate their patience and support," she said.

Winning tickets that bear the duplicate numbers are being honored. But players who hung on to their losing tickets for the four games affected from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3 can exchange their ticket for a new one or get a refund by mail or in person at one of three Arizona Lottery locations:

  • Phoenix office: 4740 E. University Drive, Phoenix, AZ 85034; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Tucson office: 2900 E. Broadway Blvd., Suite 190, Tucson, AZ 85716; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m-5 p.m.
  • Sky Harbor Airport: Terminal 4 baggage claim area.

Players can contact the Arizona Lottery by phone at 480-921-4400.

One more failure to add to the heap of computerized drawing disasters

No official explanation has been offered thus far for the computerized drawing failure.

State lotteries have been emphatically stating for years that computerized drawings both save money for the state as well as provide an entirely secure, reliable way to draw lottery numbers.

But the volume of evidence to the contrary is staggering.

Lottery Post has documented case after case of computerized drawing failures of every type, including outright rigging.

In fact, just four years ago the very same state lottery — the Arizona Lottery — suffered a monumental computerized drawing failure that went undiscovered for two months, rendering almost 8% of all Pick 3 tickets sold during that span incapable of winning.


Other computerized drawing states have had the exact type of failure as Arizona, drawing the same numbers multiple times in a row. (See Computerized lottery drawing glitch picks same numbers for 3 days, Lottery Post, Dec. 23, 2005.)

In Delaware, such a glitch prompted players to cash in on the situation — regular lottery players detected the malfunction sooner than the lottery awoke to the realization that its drawings were flawed.  (See Keno players cash in on lottery glitch in Delaware, Lottery Post, Dec. 24, 2015.)

In the past computerized drawing states have been begged by their players to switch back to real, traditional lottery ball drawings, but to little avail.  One bright exception is the Hoosier Lottery in Indiana, which responded to its players' requests by switching back to real ball drawings, and returned to televising lottery drawings.  The decision was a brave one, given that in the years prior, the Hoosier Lottery made contradictory statements that computerized drawings were better than real ball drawings.

What do state lotteries get out of computerized drawings to make them cling to the failure-prone technology?  Based on the state lotteries' silence on the issue one can only guess.

Perhaps it is a little bit cheaper for the lottery to get rid of televised drawings, but then again with the latest technology in robotic camera work and cheap production through online streaming, this argument no longer holds water.

Or perhaps the state lotteries have lost their passion for creative marketing, and can no longer see real drawings for what they are:  an opportunity to hold a mini event every day — a chance to entertain, inspire confidence, and bring more dollars into the state.

When will they start listening?

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