Posts Tagged ‘lotteries’

Ontario Lottery and Gaming: Where From Here?

by , Feb 4, 2011 | 7:52 am

I was fascinated by an article I saw on Tuesday in Wired (Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code by Jonah Lehrer – ‘Easy Money’ in the print edition) addressing the lack of randomness in scratch lottery games, and especially in extended-play games. It’s an old story but a well-written article. The piece centres on a geological statistician named Mohan Srivastava in Toronto. A few years ago, Srivastava started noticing patterns in the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s (OLG’s) Tic-Tac-Toe scratch tickets. By focusing only on the non-recurring numbers – the “singles” - from the unscratched cards, Srivastava was able to accurately identify winners approximatley 90% of the time. This wasn’t the only game that he was able to crack, either in Ontario or in other jurisdictions in North America.

At first, OLG wouldn’t even return Srivastava’s calls. They just assumed he was some crazy crank who thought he could beat the lottery. In what I thought was the funniest part of the article, he hit on a way to get their attention:

He bought 20 tic-tac-toe tickets and sorted them, unscratched, into piles of winners and losers. Then, he couriered the package to [Rob] Zufelt [a member of OLG’s security team] along with the following note:

In the enclosed envelopes, I have sent you two groups of 10 TicTacToe tickets that I purchased from various outlets around Toronto in the past week… You go ahead and scratch off the cards. Maybe you can give one batch to your lottery ticket specialist. After you’ve scratched them off, you should have a pretty solid sense for whether or not there’s something fishy here.

The package was sent at 10 am. Two hours later, he received a call from Zufelt. Srivastava had correctly predicted 19 out of the 20 tickets. The next day, the tic-tac-toe game was pulled from stores.