The Texas Lottery, Mega Millions, Powerball
Originally Posted: June 22, 2004
Just Lottery News
Texas Sees High Border Sales
(SAN ANTONIO) -- $145 million will certainly get your attention.
The prize for Lotto Texas has risen to it's highest level in history, thanks to an unprecedented run of three and a half months without a winner. The last time all six numbers were matched in Lotto Texas was February 25.
"I'll buy a few tickets," said one man this morning buying tickets at a convenience store in northwest San Antonio. He said he has never before purchased a lottery ticket.
Others are going together with family, friends, and co-workers to increase their chances of winning. One woman buying tickets today said she plans to have one thousand tickets for Saturday's drawing with her name on them.
"Fifty of us went together and we all spent $20 each," she said.
There was no winner in last night's $120 million Lotto Texas drawing despite tickets being sold at a rate of more than 4500 per minute. Several lottery retailers said they had to bring in extra workers to handle the crunch.
People who sell tickets along the state's borders were being particularly hard hit. Fernando Benevides runs a Diamond Shamrock store in Anthony, Texas, just a block from the New Mexico border.
"People are coming in here from New Mexico, saying 'I'm going to win your lottery!'" he told 1200 WOAI news.
At Angela Duke's Total station in Texarkana Texas, she says Arkansans are coming in with wads of cash.
"There's a lot of interest in it of course, considering the amount of money that's now in the jackpot," Duke said.
The Lotto Texas jackpot is the largest lottery prize currently available in the United States. MegaMillions and Powerball, which were established specifically to combine states and obtain large prizes, currently have jackpots of $121 million and $47 million respectively.
6/21/2004 6:43 PM
With the recent huge jackpots, lottery critics fear the poor will be spending more money for a false hope.
Twenty-eight-year-old Tracy Gildon has a dream thousands of others fantasize about.
"When I purchase that lottery ticket, scratch it off, I'm hoping that I can hit the lucky money," she said.
She's also a single mother taking care of three children on her own.
"No clothes, no food, barely a shelter. We are struggling to survive," Gildon said.
Gildon said she's poor and one of many low income people buying lottery tickets.
"I spend approximately $50 a week on lottery tickets," Gildon said.
That's upsetting for Alan Graham with Mobile Loaves and Fishes. He visits the poor everyday.
"We've seen a number of our people that live on the street that are in possession of lottery tickets," Graham said.
He feels there needs to be another way to raise money for the state. A nationwide Gallup Poll claims nearly 50 percent of poor people buy lottery tickets.
"When you take a dollar or $5 out of their pocket you are taking a significant percentage of their resources," Graham said.
But the Texas Lottery Commission says those Gallup Poll numbers do not reflect low income players in Texas.
According to a demographic study of lotto players researched by the University of Texas, it shows out of the 17,000 people surveyed, only about 6 percent of them were considered low income.
"Fifty-six percent of those respondents play the lottery, 44 percent do not. Out of that 56 percent of people that play the lottery, 44 percent showed to have a household income of $50,000 or more," Bobby Heith, with the Texas Lottery Commission, said.
Heith adds people just need to be sensible when playing.
"It takes only one ticket to win, and don't bet the farm that you are going to win the lottery," he said.
Gildon feels since everyone has the right to test their luck she has the right to test hers.
"Yes, I will keep purchasing lottery tickets. One of these days I might hit," she said.
It's a gamble Tracy feels is worth it even if it means spending her last dollars on a slim chance.
State lottery officials stress their study shows people with the lowest levels of education and income were the least likely to play the Texas Lottery.
Friday, June 18, 2004
If you think winning the $120 million Mega Millions or $145 million Lotto Texas jackpots this weekend could solve all of life's problems, think again.
Many lottery winners face paranoia, anxiety, depression and isolation from loved ones after cashing in on the big bucks, and large amounts of time spent playing the lottery can develop unhealthy expectations of happiness, according to a Dallas clinical psychologist.
"There's a sense of euphoria at first of winning this pie in the sky, but it could be followed by a bit of a crash," Dr. Heather Robbins said. "A lot of people have this fantasy that winning the lottery will fix all their problems. Unfortunately, it brings a lot of psychological issues to the surface."
With a 1 in 47.7 million chance of winning Lotto Texas, a 1 in 135 million chance of winning Mega Millions and a 1 in 6.4 quadrillion chance of winning both, most people realize winning is probably not in the cards.
But many choose to spend time that could be focused on improving their present lives and problems on dreams of winning the lottery, Robbins said.
"I think it's a diversion of energy that might be better spent elsewhere," she said. "It would be better to use that energy and think 'How do I feel about my job or marriage?' Take that energy and make it more pro-active."
If someone is part of the lucky few who happen to win, a whole new set of emotional issues can come into play.
Dr. H. Roy Kaplan, sociologist and author of several books about lottery winners, interviewed 600 $1 million lottery winners throughout Canada and the northeastern United States. He said that personalities influence the way individuals deal with winning.
Issues that lottery winners have dealt with include: strangers showing up on doorsteps for money; worries of children being kidnapped for ransom; suspicion of family members; and years of legal problems. Any of these can lead to feelings of guilt, paranoia, depression and anxiety, he said.
"People don't know what to do with the money even when they win it," Kaplan said. "When they suddenly hit this huge sum, it hits their threshold. It can be a shock."
Robbins said a lack of planning on how to deal with winning both financially and emotionally can lead to bad decision-making.
"A lot of times there are cousins that come out of the woodwork or an unknown aunt with cancer asking for money, and sometimes people will end up making bad decisions," she said. "I think some people have the dynamic of believing winning is what they want but then carry a lot of guilt and end up back where they were and sometimes worse."
Despite the emotional risks associated with playing and winning the lottery, Kaplan said most lottery winners fare normally and lead happy lives after the initial shock.
For the hundreds of thousands of people snatching up tickets for Friday's Mega Millions and Saturday's Texas Lottery drawings, Kaplan had two pieces of advice: Don't automatically quit your job and don't buy more than one ticket.
"The majority of people I interviewed won the million from buying just one ticket," he said.
By Kevin Leininger
When the Powerball jackpot passes the point where greed justifies stupidity -- and, at $50 million, Saturday's drawing probably qualifies -- I've been known to hand the convenience-store clerk a $5 bill in exchange for a small slip of paper bearing five series of computer-selected numbers.
Anything won that way, of course, would be the product of dumb luck. So when I don't win millions -- and I never have, or I wouldn't have to write this column -- I don't feel cheated. I've always been more dumb than lucky.
But there are people for whom playing the lottery is an exercise in mathematics and law of probabilities. To them, the rewards transcend money, and winning is the result of good planning, not just good fortune.
And some of those people said they no longer play the Hoosier Lottery because they suspect "randomly selected" winning numbers aren't truly random. Their complaint has gotten the attention of State Rep. Robert Alderman, R-Fort Wayne, who will investigate the concerns and try to change the lottery's number-selection process.
"For me, it was not about the money. It was about beating the game," said Jim Grimes of Kimmel, in Noble County.
Grimes, a retired engineer who began playing lotteries while in the Navy, meticulously records numbers the lottery selects. Grimes has used those charts to predict which numbers are more or less likely to win -- if the selection process is truly random. His system worked well, Grimes said -- he once he won nearly $12,000 in three weeks playing daily games -- until the lottery started using numbers generated by computers instead of pingpong balls drawn by a machine.
Afterward, Grimes said, his charts showed some numbers were selected more or less often than before -- and a system that had consistently produced wins yielded mostly losses. And since the laws of mathematics and probabilities have not changed, he reasoned, the lottery's numbers must have. In that case, any winning number selected -- even using a system such as Grimes' -- would be a matter of pure luck. And that's a game he and others like him refuse to play.
Hoosier Lottery officials said the change from pingpong balls to computers was made for two reasons: reliability and cost.
"We had used 15 (pingpong ball) machines since 1989, and they were showing wear and tear," lottery spokesman Andrew Reed said. "They would have cost at least $40,000 each to replace. Two portable computers cost about $700 each."
And Lottery Director Jack Ross said computers are not only more reliable but also produce numbers that are even more random, since even slight differences in the weight of pingpong balls -- caused by wear, paint or other factors -- could affect the numbers chosen. The lottery's selection process is closely monitored by impartial auditors, Ross and Reed said.
Grimes' fear: If the lottery's computers can track and even limit the numbers played by the public -- and they do -- those computers also can control the winning numbers selected by the lottery.
But that's a connection that simply doesn't exist, Ross said.
Even though lottery tickets state the "Hoosier Lottery reserves the right to limit the selection of certain numbers," it does so to limit the lottery's liability in a particular drawing, Ross said. If too many people play the same number, and that number is chosen by the lottery, the lottery could have to pay out far more than it takes in. To be able to do that, of course -- and to know where winning tickets are sold -- the lottery's computers must keep track of the numbers played by the public.
"It's a business decision, but I can't tell you off the top of my head what the limit is," he said.
But what if the lottery computers that issue numbers to the public are somehow talking to the computers that select the winning numbers? Could the lottery use that to control its payout by selecting numbers no one had picked?
Despite Grimes' suspicions, Ross said it's not happening -- and can't.
"Our reputation and integrity are on the line. Our charge from the state is to raise as much revenue as we can, but the best way to do that is by increasing payouts, not limiting them," Ross said.
In other words, people won't keep buying tickets to play a game they don't believe they can win. But, of course, that's Grimes' very point. Nor is he the only person making it.
Jeff Hert of Greenfield, Ind., has been playing the Hoosier Lottery for six years, picking numbers using a statistical database he found on the Internet. Like Grimes, Hert said he had some luck playing the daily games -- until the computers replaced the pingpong balls.
Since then, Hert said, he's probably lost $50,000. "I played so much it killed me. I don't think I'm addicted (to gambling); I just kept playing because I thought the law of averages would come around."
Hert doesn't play the Hoosier Lottery much anymore, but after meeting Grimes in an online lottery chat room and talking in person, he's convinced Grimes' concerns deserve investigation.
Todd Northrop, who operates a lottery Web site -- lotterypost.com -- said he is concerned by the growing use of computer-generated lottery numbers, "as there is no truly random computer. The relatively small savings obtained from computerized drawings is not worth the loss of player confidence it causes."
Just this week, in fact, Northrop's Web site posted a story from Pennsylvania, where "4-7-4" has won four times -- twice each on midday and evening drawings -- since May 17. The odds of that happening are about 3.3 million-to-one.
The Pennsylvania Lottery's midday drawing -- you guessed it -- uses a computer to select the winning numbers.
On the other hand, the evening drawing uses pingpong balls.
So what does all of this mean, if anything?
I'm not sure. Neither does Alderman. But he wants to find out.
"Any system where you don't see the numbers selected raises questions," Alderman said, referring to the fact the selection of lottery numbers is no longer televised, as it was in the pingpong ball era.
Ross, however, said that decision was made mostly by broadcasters, not the lottery. And people can witness the drawing if they request it.
Alderman also wants to study whether the computer-generated numbers are truly random, and whether the lottery is purposefully limiting payouts to compensate for the state government's billion-dollar deficit. Since the Hoosier Lottery began in 1989, it has sent about $2.5 million to the state. Out of about $8.5 million in sales, about $4.8 million in prizes have been paid. A payoff rate of about 50 percent is about average, Ross said, but that can rise or fall slightly according to, well, chance.
Still, to restore the faith of lottery agnostics like Grimes, Alderman's going to propose the Hoosier Lottery go back to picking its numbers the old-fashioned way: with pingpong balls. That's the method still used by the multi-state Powerball lottery.
"We would argue against that," Ross said.
"I don't care," Alderman said. "They work for (the Legislature)."
Reporter Kevin Leininger writes a column every other Saturday. Leininger has been with The News-Sentinel 24 years, 11 as an editorial writer. The column reflects his opinion, not necessarily that of The News-Sentinel, and will discuss issues affecting Fort Wayne. To pass along column ideas or feedback, contact him at or call 461-8355.
Many players don't realize that the Texas Lottery does not use balls and machines to draw the Megaplier number. They use a computer to generate the number.
Computers require software to work. To say that the numbers drawn are "random" would depend on the algorithm but no one knows what that is or what was programmed except the lotteries. It is for this reason that lotteries should conduct their drawing using balls and machines.
Lotteries say that conducting drawings using computers saves them money - but to me - it's just the cost of doing business.
The only way to insure consumers that all numbers drawn are really random numbers is to do it the old fashioned way.
The Texas Lottery is currently planning to convert over to computer generated drawings. This should NOT be permitted.