Ken Rodriguez Says ... Before you buy that next scratch-off ticket, please read this column ...

Story As It Appeared in the
San Antonio Express News

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2004

Informant reported lottery scam
Agency criticized for silence in scratch-off case, click here.

The three comments in blue in the
story below were added by

Ken Rodriguez: Is scratch-off buyer playing the lottery or being played?

San Antonio Express-News

Before you buy that next scratch-off ticket, please read this column.

It might save you money.

It might increase your odds.

Or it might make you so mad you never want to buy another ticket.

In a moment, I'll identify the 24 scratch-off games (up from 22 on June 11) that give you no chance to win the top prize.

But first a quick word about the lottery.

"Lotto fever is not all it's cracked up to be," says Gerald Busald, a San Antonio College math professor who has studied the lottery for years. "The lotto fever is at the scratch-off level. Scratch-offs comprise two-thirds of all Texas lottery sales."

According to, the Texas Lottery Commission has recorded $2.7 billion in lottery sales this fiscal year - with $1.79 billion coming from scratch-off tickets.

One reason the commission makes so much from scratch-offs is because of impossible odds in many games: zero.

The top prizes have been claimed in 24 of the current 87 games - but tickets for those 24 games are still being sold.

Quick, how many of you would buy a ticket knowing the top two prizes had been claimed?

Well, people are still paying $20 to play Casino Action, and the $1 million top prize and $100,000 second prize are gone.

The news gets worse. A customer representative from the Texas Lottery Commission says tickets for Casino Action will remain on sale at least through September.

Why? Because scratch-off games are not closed until 95 percent of all tickets are sold, the customer rep says.

Put another way, the Texas Lottery Commission will continue playing people for suckers for months after top prizes are claimed.

"With such an overwhelming percentage of sales coming from scratch-offs," Busald says, "you can see why the commission wants to keep the games going as long as they do."

Busald knows the illusions of the lottery better than most. On three occasions, students in his statistics class have exposed erroneous lottery claims and shamed the commission into making corrections.

Once, a commission ad claimed that those who matched 5 of 5 numbers in a drawing would win on average $75,000. Busald's class showed that the average prize for each of 1,010 winners was $56,824.24.

The commission pulled the TV ad, Busald recalls, but refused to admit its numbers were wrong. "They tend not to be very forthcoming," he says.

The Lottery Commission does post the number of prizes remaining for each scratch-off game on its Web site, But not everyone has a computer, and many who do don't know that the information is available.

I'll bet the Lottery Commission 20 bucks that sales for Casino Action would drop dramatically if every player knew there was no chance to win the first or second prize.

But the commission can't afford to take that bet. It would lose millions in sales.

This column cannot reach every player. But for those it can reach, here are the 24 Scratch Off games whose top prizes have been claimed:

$100,000 Cash Vault; $50,000 Cash Bonanza; $500,000 Payday; 3 Card Cash; $2 Bingo; $5 Bingo; Blazin' Eights; Break The Bank; Casino Action; Club Casino; Crown Jewels; Diamond Mine; Doubler Bingo; Holiday Bonus; Hot Dice; Hot Shots Slots; Luck Of The Draw; Lucky Loot; Magnificent 7s; Mega Bucks; Midas Touch; Roll For Riches; Top Tens and Weekly Grand. And Texas I-35

Weekly Grand is the trickiest game. One $2 ticket buys a chance to win the top prize of $1,000 a week for 20 years. But there are three Weekly Grand games to choose from, and only two have the top prizes remaining. (Only one of the three Weekly Grand tickets contain top prizes as a top prize was claimed on June 25 - just two days ago. It was from game #433. An observation I've made on the Weekly Grand tickets, and several others, is that the top prizes are coming in late in the game. This makes me wonder about the distribution process.)

So how do you know which of the three games to avoid?

The customer rep says to look at the commission's Web site. The three Weekly Grand games have different numbers and different colored tickets.

Tickets that are green and orange and carry the number 386 have no top prizes available. And game number 433 has no top prizes.

Now, who's feeling lucky out there?

Busald considers himself lucky. He doesn't play. Not many of his students do either.

After doing the research, some suspect that scratch-off is more rip-off than payoff.
To contact Ken Rodriguez, call or e-mail . His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Informant reported lottery scam
Agency criticized for silence in scratch-off case, click here.

See a listing of all scratch tickets and how many prizes remain unclaimed.
Feel free to print it and share it with your friends and retailers. Click here (pdf)

See lottery sales by product for all fiscal years, click here.

Special Note From

BEWARE of the "Mystery Scratch Ticket" games. Most likely they are the tickets the TLC or the retailers are trying to unload like the ones with no top prizes.

For FREE, you can obtain from the Texas Lottery Commission a weekly report (excel spreedsheet) that shows how many prizes are still unclaimed for each game. This 16 page report shows the total prizes in each level, prize value of both the claimed and unclaimed prizes, the ticket number, game name and it shows each and every prize amount for every ticket. This report is actually done by G-Tech and is received by the Commission every Sunday or Monday morning for me. But the truth is, this information is kept and furnished to the TLC daily.

By law the TLC has 10 days to fill open records requests and they will take their full 10 days to respond especially in this case. They don't want you to know this much about it! I receive this report plus two others every week but I do have to make a request for them every week.

To receive a FREE copy by email or US mail, just send to:

or click here

If requesting by US mail send to:
Texas Lottery Commission

Austin, Texas 78761-6630
Attention: Open Records

In the subject line just say, "Open Records Request"

In the body of the message just say,
I would like to receive a copy of the MOST CURRENT "Ticket Overview" report. I understand this report gives a complete breakdown of ALL scratch tickets including its price, how many tickets remain unclaimed, have been claimed, the value claimed and unclaimed for all prizes and it shows every ticket currently available by name and game number.

Please email to (give your email address & proof it) OR send to (give full name and address).

You should give your name, address, city, state, and zip and your phone number just in case they need to call you but they shouldn't have to call you unless you erred in providing your address.

See lottery sales by product for all fiscal years, click here.

See a listing of all scratch tickets and how many prizes remain unclaimed.
Feel free to print it and share it with your friends and retailers. Click here (pdf)



Comments - E-mail Us
Comments for the TLC - E-mail Them

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