Massachusetts Lottery Loophole Virtually Guaranteed a Profit

Michael Santo's picture

Reportedly, if you had enough money to buy enough tickets in one of Massachusetts lottery tickets, you were guaranteed to make a profit, according to a new report, which has caused the state to limit purchases on tickets for that game.

The discovery, however, and the announcement of the find, first came from a newspaper, The Boston Globe. It again shows how solid investigative reporting is still something necessary in this age of Internet reporting, short stories, and blogs. Newspapers continue to take a major hit in readership and advertising in this age of the Web.

On Sunday, The Boston Globe reported that a handful of professional gamblers had discovered a loophole in a lottery game called Cash WinFall. The loophole involved the way the lottery's rules were structured during certain weeks, depending on the jackpot size. It wasn't cheap, however. Gamblers had to buy more than $100,000 worth of tickets at those times, but if they did so, they were virtually guaranteed of making a profit.

Those times are called “rolldown weeks.’’ They occur when the Cash WinFall jackpot grows to about $2 million. The money in the pool is "rolled down" by increasing the prizes for ticketholders who match 4 or 5 correct numbers. During those weeks, prizes for those tiers are four to 10 times larger than normal. The Globe said the prize for five matching numbers might rise from $4,000 to as much as $134,767, depending on the number of tickets sold.

Several groups formed gambling companies and began pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into Cash WinFall during these periods. Two of the groups were ed by highly trained computer scientists from MIT and Northeastern University. One group was led by a pair of 73-year-olds, Gerald and Marjoree Selbee of Michigan, who would occasionally come to Massachusetts to buy tickets in bulk. It was reported that they went so far as to take jobs at convenience stores so they could sell themselves lottery tickets without having to annoy store clerks.

After first defending the lottery's practices, state Treasurer Steven Grossman on Monday afternoon said that stores can only sell a maximum of $5,000 worth of Cash WinFall tickets in a single day. That would make it difficult for groups like the Selbees to accrue over $100,000 in tickets for a rolldown week.

A Canadian statistician, Mohan Srivastava told The Globe.that the five biggest winners playing Cash WinFall were earning back the cost of their tickets and up to $6 million in profits annually by using the rolldown loophole without ever winning the jackpot.

According to the Globe, these groups will only have a short time to use the loophole at any rate. Cash WinFall will be phased out next spring as part of the normal rotation of lottery games, the state treasurer said.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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