How and Why Do Lottery Errors Occur?

Lottery draws aren't perfect.
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  • Author:
    William Monroe
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Although lottery draws and results usually always go off without a hitch, there have been times when things haven't quite gone according to plan. So, what happens when a lottery game encounters a problem that can affect the outcome of the draw and the players who have bought tickets?

Most lottery jurisdictions already have rules and procedures in place to address such issues, and so don't need to implement any ad-hoc, emergency measures. But, for the small few that do, the response is always to ensure that the integrity of the draw and payouts to the players are 100% random, done in the most honest and transparent fashion possible, and swiftly address the issue that has occurred.

What Kind of Errors Can Affect Lotteries?

As an example, in one lottery drawing, there was a programming error which generated a repetitive amount of winning tickets (the same tickets over and over) over a two-hour period.

In this case, the game was suspended, players were told not to throw out or destroy their tickets, and an investigation followed. The drawing was declared null and void, and a new drawing was held without any issues.

For another draw, lottery terminal printers were only printing out on one half of the side of the ticket. The main server needed to be rebooted for the proper data to be sent to the printers.

When mechanical or electronic errors like this occur, in most jurisdictions, the draw is considered null and void, and all tickets purchased for the draw are declared still valid and eligible to be included in the next draw.

It could happen that there is a draw in which an error occurs where many purchased tickets have not been entered into the database system and are therefore not included in the actual draw. This draw would be declared void, and the tickets that weren't included would be entered into system. These types of lottery malfunctions would affect all players in the draw, whether or not they themselves had an invalid ticket.

It Can Happen to Tickets, Too

On the other side of the issue, the actual lottery tickets can also fall under a number of other "malfunctions" that will cause it to be declared null and void for an individual ticket purchaser. Tickets that are misprinted, illegible, or cut incorrectly at the terminal are void; so are tickets that are defective in any way.

Playing the lottery can be compared to playing a slot machine. For instance, on every slot machine you will find - somewhere on the top, middle, or bottom glass or elsewhere on the machine - a disclaimer that reads, "Malfunction voids all pays and plays" or some other wording similar to this.

This disclaimer is a legal notification that if the slot machine malfunctions in any way, any actual, perceived, or other winning combination, or any other type of win is null and void. This also applies to the game played itself. The play is also considered null and void. The player is not entitled to any winnings and the cost of the game play is refunded to the customer. This applies to mechanical-reel slots (such as reel-strip slippage or damaged reel motors) and video slots (monitors going blank or fuzzy, CPU/motherboard/daughterboard problems, and critical or fatal computing errors.)

This disclaimer for slots and similar disclaimers, rules, and regulations related to lottery draws, protect both the operator from having pay out any money for non-legitimate results and regulators from having to investigate small non-regulatory problems.

The player automatically agrees to this disclaimer when they insert their money and press the spin button or purchase a ticket. So, if a malfunction occurs, the player cannot argue against it-though many try.

What to Do If There's an Issue with Your Lottery Ticket

If you ever find yourself with a ticket in which the drawing has a malfunction or other type of error, don't panic, but also, don't immediately assume you've won anything even if you are sure you have.

Check your ticket when you buy it to make sure it has been printed correctly and that it contains all the information required to validate it. If you see an error, immediately bring it to the cashier's attention so it can be rectified or investigated. Never discard your ticket after a draw or after you check it. Keep it for a week just to ensure that no errors have occurred for the draw.

Although lottery errors are extremely rare, they do happen. Keep calm and cool and heed the advice of the lottery operator. Who knows? That win you thought you got may just turn into a legitimate one after all.

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