Texas Will Be The FIRST
To Tell The Truth About
the Scratch Off Odds!

College students convince Lottery Commission to clarify the odds!


Posted: Nov. 30, 2000
Revised: December 13, 2000

To read the students testimony at the Commissioners
meeting on November 29, 2000,
click here.

To read the Dec. 11, 2000 newspaper story that
appeared in the San Antonio Express News,
click here

To read the story that appeared in
the New York Post,
click here.

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11-30-00: I was in Austin yesterday for the Commissioners Meeting and I've got to tell you, it felt really good to see Linda Cloud and the Commissioners set an such a fine example for the math students from San Antonio College. The students were there to express their feelings about what they read on the back of the scratch off tickets versus what they learned in their statistics class. These young people are, after all, our future and they needed to know that speaking up can pay off and adults are big enough to change their ways. Overall, the Commission really did good by them.

It felt even better to know that Texas finally found the guts to move forward and not do something just because "everyone else does it." You see, the Commission has calculated the odds for these tickets in the same manner as all other states, even though the numbers were, in reality, deceiving. For GET REAL members, this was one of our issues that we can mark off as soon as we see proof!

Below is the story as it appeared in the Dallas Morning News about the decision ....and then I add a little more to his story at the end.

Commission to clarify lottery ticket language
Students argued that breaking even wasn't winning

11/30/2000

By George Kuempel / The Dallas Morning News


AUSTIN – The state's scratch-off lottery tickets will soon feature some new language, thanks to the persistence of a group of San Antonio College math students and their instructor.

At issue: Should a "winning" ticket that pays only the price of the ticket really be called a "winner?"

The Texas Lottery Commission has answered "Yes" to that question since the start of the games eight years ago. It has factored in amounts paid to those who won back the price of their tickets in calculating the odds for each game, which by law must be printed on each ticket. Doing so allows the odds to be manipulated to appear better for players.

But students in professor Gerald Busald's statistics classes, who, as part of their studies, have caught the commission in several math errors in the last three years, argued Wednesday that the agency is misleading the public by not disclosing that the break-even tickets are included in the odds.

That's not fair, students told the three-member Texas Lottery Commission, because most players don't consider it a "win" if they only get back the cost of the ticket.

"People are not aware that you count the break-even tickets in the odds," student Nicole Cunningham testified. "I don't think that's fair, and I don't think it's right. It's unethical, in my opinion."

With her classmates looking on, Ms. Cunningham told commissioners that she questioned many lottery players – including an oil company executive and a "bum" – and "every single one said, 'no,'" when asked whether they thought that a lottery ticket that paid only the price of the play amounted to a "win."

"They considered that breaking even," she said.

At the suggestion of Mr. Busald and the students, Lottery Commission Executive Director Linda Cloud agreed to clarify the issue by changing the language on future scratch tickets to read, "Overall odds of winning any prize, including break-even prizes, are ... "

The tickets now refer only to "overall odds."

"I don't see a problem with us doing that," Ms. Cloud said. "If that will solve anybody's question about whether the lottery is deceiving the public or not, then I would absolutely suggest we do something like that."

The students broke into big smiles when Thomas Clowe of Waco, the commission chairman, told them, "You won."

'100 percent true'

Ms. Cloud said that Texas was following the procedures used by other states in calculating the odds, and that there has never been any attempt to deceive anyone.

"I know for a fact that a lot of players feel like they've won if they got their money back rather than not getting any prize," she said.

Toni Smith, the lottery marketing director, said the new language will go on tickets ordered in the future. Those tickets will appear in stores in about six months, she said.

She also said that she hadn't heard any complaints from players about how the odds have been presented.

"I think our players are very savvy," she said.

Mr. Busald said he was delighted with the decision. And although the change doesn't affect the odds, the scratch tickets for the first time will contain information on winning that is "100 percent true."

And he predicted that other states will follow Texas' lead.

"I think it is a national issue because other lotteries do the same thing. I think we're taking a step in Texas toward being as truthful as possible, and that's really positive," he said.

"I think it will put pressure on other lotteries to do the same thing."

Mr. Busald cited Jingle Bucks, one of the newer games, as an example of how including the break-even prizes can make the odds of "winning" appear more attractive to players. The "overall odds" are listed as 1 in 2.46 on the tickets. But more than a quarter of the "winning" tickets – 28 percent – pay only $10, the cost of a ticket.

"Certainly, there is a significant percentage of the people who if they break even do not consider themselves winners," he said. "We are not insisting that the break-even prize be eliminated. We just ask that it be advertised fairly."

The commission, meanwhile, was told that the changes it made this year in the online Lotto Texas game to try to increase sales appear to be paying off.

Weekly sales for the 19 weeks since the change was made have averaged $13.9 million, compared with $10.7 million for the previous 19 weeks, according to Larry King, who oversees the games in Texas for games operator Gtech Corp. The average jackpots for that period have jumped to $17.5 million from $10 million.

"Things are breaking in the right direction," Mr. King told the commission.(My comment on this statement is below - be sure and read it)

Commissioners this year voted to add four more numbers to the 50 used in the drawings. That was done to try to build the jackpots by making the top prize more difficult to win. The higher jackpots in turn are expected to increase ticket sales.

-End of Dallas Morning News Story-

George Kuempel did an excellent job in writing this story but I feel compelled to add a little bit to it. One student, Kris Whitney, gave an analogy that I truly loved, and so did everyone else. I want to share it with you. He said, "Think of it like this. Imagine the Dallas Cowboys in Houston to play the Houston Oilers. The score is 50-50 and the clock just ran out. Tell me, who won? Did they both win? Did they both lose? Or did they tie?" As you can imagine, he made his point.

Another student told the Commissioners that she was taking a class in Business Ethics. She asked if a private sector business would be able to make such statements without government stepping in and putting a stop to it. Commissioner Clowe told her that this was only her opinion and that some people may view getting their original money back as winning.

Attention Parents of these young folks - Your kids are something to be proud of. They were polite, well behaved, smart, courteous and patient. And they spoke up and got the job done.

And one more thing - you all know that I can't let Larry Kings comment of "success" for Lotto Texas go unchallenged. First, he used the word "average sales" are up. Of course the "average" sales are up from last year - there have been so few winners ... and no one ever disputed that when the jackpots are larger that entices play and brings in new players from out of state which automatically raises the "average." But we all know that the People of Texas are unhappy and are not playing Lotto Texas like the TLC had hoped. At 6/50 we had winners, at 6/54 we eventually have larger jackpots. Gee, I wonder which is better and for who?

Now lets compare and see how Lotto sales really are:
For the 11-29-00, $23 million drawing, sales were $7,335,005 - but ...
on 8-26-00 with a $23 Million pot, sales were $7,391,580
on 4-12-00 with a $23 Million pot, sales were $9,406,257
on 3-18-00 with a $22 Million pot, sales were $8,519,451
on 12-8-99 with a $23 Million pot, sales were $8,335,522
on 10-16-99 with a $22 Million pot, sales were $8,521,898

What I see is a loss -

NOTE - I have a page on my web site that literally shows you the odds of winning each and every prize on many of the different lottery tickets. Click here to see the true odds of winning.

To read the students testimony at the Commissioners meeting on November 29, 2000, click here.

To read the Dec. 11, 2000 newspaper story that appeared in the San Antonio Express News, click here

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