Illinois Lottery glitch made some winning tickets worth more — briefly
People buy lottery tickets hoping to catch a lucky break, and that’s exactly what some people got last week when a glitch with a new Illinois Lottery system caused retailers to overpay on winning tickets.
Before throwing on a coat and running out to drop your paycheck on lottery tickets, note: The problem was discovered the same day it began, Feb. 20, and lottery officials were able to fix it that night, said Jason Schaumburg, a spokesman for the Illinois Lottery.
“There was a technical issue that involved instant ticket validations,” Schaumburg said. Retailers “would validate a ticket that the player knew was a winner and — say they were supposed to win $1 — and then the validation ticket that the terminal prints out may have said to pay that winner $300. What the ticket should’ve paid and what the system was spitting out were not matching.”
Most retailers will only cash out lottery tickets that win up to $600, according to the lottery — so none of the payouts could have been really big. And while some lucky folks got their own proverbial golden tickets, it wasn’t a winner for the owners of stores that handed out the false prizes and are, as of now, out the extra money they paid.
Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association and Illinois Association of Convenience Stores, on Friday was able to share a solution with retailers who paid out inaccurate winnings to customers. They must submit a signed written account of what happened, the ticket itself and any validation slips or additional documentation to the central lottery office in Springfield, he said.
Schaumburg said the trouble came soon after the lottery transitioned to a new central gaming system that included all-new retail terminals, equipment and vending machines and a new digital lottery program, including a new website and mobile app.
“When you look at the scope of it, it is one of the largest tech and retail transitions ever undertaken by a U.S. lottery,” Schaumburg said. “So when we were working through that there was a technical issue that involved instant ticket validations and caused us to temporarily suspend ticket validations … so most of last Wednesday retailers were not able to validate winning instant tickets and then a fix went out Wednesday night and it’s been working fine ever since.”
Schaumburg said he could not estimate how much extra money was paid out.
At no point were sales affected.
“You could still walk in and buy any lottery ticket. It did not affect players’ ability to play lottery, it only (postponed) their ability to cash a winning instant ticket,” Schaumburg said.
Fleischli said the rollout of updated services also means that existing lottery vending machines — often found in supermarkets and some convenience stores — no longer work. Until they get the new machines, those stores have to sell those tickets through a clerk, which can add to wait times in lines.
People buy lottery tickets hoping to catch a lucky break, and that's exactly what some people got last week when a glitch with a new Illinois Lottery system caused retailers to overpay on winning tickets.