Lottery error gives 0 to Daily 3 'winners'

  • Article by: JAMES ELI SHIFFER
  • Star Tribune
  • January 7, 2010 - 9:04 PM

K Fields of Minneapolis has been playing the Daily Three for years. She had a good feeling lately about a triple-zero, so she plunked down her dollar and bought a ticket for Saturday's drawing. When she called the hot line for the Daily Three results, she was thrilled to hear 000. But her elation turned to anger when she found out the Minnesota State Lottery had changed the winning numbers to 473.

"How do you make a mistake like that?" Fields asked Whistleblower.

Whistleblower put the question to the Minnesota State Lottery's director of operations, Jenny Canfield. The answer: a combination of computer glitch and human error, she said. The computer's random drawing, certified by an external auditor, pulled up the digits 4, 7 and 3, she said.

But something went wrong when the computer tried to upload the results to the automated phone line and the website. The lottery has a backup plan in which those results are entered manually, but the worker who did it was unfamiliar with the little-used system and hit "process" before the numbers were entered. That meant those systems defaulted to triple zero.

The Daily Three allows players to use that combo, so an unknown number experienced a false thrill of victory until the lottery workers could correct the error. Canfield estimated the wrong numbers were reported for about three hours on the hot line and an hour on the website.

Canfield didn't know how many players had chosen triple-zero, but said there were 196 winning tickets for 473. About three-quarters of them have been paid out. She's heard from holders of both combinations. They'll do their best to verify winners who might have mistakenly lost their 473 tickets, but for the triple-zeroes, they have only apologies.

"We really pride ourselves on ensuring the accuracy," Canfield said. "It's unfortunate and we regret that. We don't want to cause any issues with our players."

Albert Welton III of Bloomington wants more than words. Thinking he had won $750 with his two 000 tickets after calling the hot line, he went to a store to cash them in and got the bad news from the clerk.

"I don't want no damned apology," Welton said. "If it's a computer error, you pay for that computer error."

Canfield said the lottery can only pay out for winning tickets.

Fields says she's not the only triple-zero player who feels cheated. "Yesterday it was the talk of the bingo hall," she said. "Many people had that number."

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