Scratch-off lottery games not as random as you think

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The North American lottery industry is a $70 billion-a-year business. It generates more revenue than movie tickets, music, and porn combined. The American lottery system is as old as the country itself. As many as 50% of U.S. citizens have played the lottery at least once in their lives. Twenty precent consider themselves regular players.

Are state-run scratch-off games completely random? Absolutely not.

A famous Wired Magazine article profiled Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician living in Toronto, who essentially cracked the system and was able to identify winning tickets with 90 percent accuracy just by looking at the numbers on the visible tic-tac-toe grid.

Srivastava would spot what he called “singletons,” numbers that appear only a single time on the visible tic-tac-toe boards. He realized that the singletons were almost always repeated under the latex coating. If three singletons appeared in a row on one of the eight boards, that ticket was probably a winner.

He has also realized similar success with Bingo scratch-off lottery tickets.

Seem impossible? Not really if you think about it.

Creating impregnable lottery scratch-off tickets is extremely difficult, if not impossible believes Srivastava. “There is nothing random about the lottery,” he says. “In reality, everything about the game has been carefully designed to control payouts and entice the consumer.” Of course, these elaborate design elements mean that the ticket can be undesigned, that the algorithm can be reverse-engineered. The veneer of chance can be peeled away.

The history of state-run scratch-off lotteries is filled with multiple winners who either have beaten incredible odds or who have likely gamed the system.

Check out these stories:

The Florida Lottery

The Hoosier Lottery

New Jersey Lottery

And of course there’s Joan R. Ginther, a former statistics professor, who had won four different multi-million dollar jackpots in Texas – three of which came from purchasing scratch-off lottery tickets. It was speculated that there was actually a pattern to where and when the winning tickets were sold, and that Professor Ginther had figured out this pattern

What can you do? Play FreeLotto for free. The odds of winning are similar to government-run lotteries and who knows, if you look really hard, you may find a pattern in our random numbers. Then again, maybe not, but you’ll have a lot of fun and you may become a millionaire. Click below to play for free.

This story was written by Michael Smith

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