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"August 16, 2010 Drawing
The August 16, 2010 drawing was a one-of-a-kind event in the history of Cash WinFall when a single high-volume betting syndicate, the MIT group, took the Lottery, the other syndicates and everyone else by surprise. They single-handedly bought enough tickets to push the jackpot to $2 million, triggering a roll-down that no one else was expecting and that was never announced to bettors on the Lottery website. As a result, the MIT group virtually monopolized the winnings from this drawing.
Mr. Harvey told the OIG he and his partners had been preparing for this for a long time. In 2008, the Lottery finally provided Mr. Harvey with the “administrative bulletins” on Cash WinFall, documents he requested back in 2005. These provided him with more detailed technical information about the game, its rules and its payout formulas. This data didn’t alter the group’s operations but it did give them a higher degree of confidence in their decision-making.
Having studied the game intently for years, the MIT group knew that if a jackpot hit $1.6 million without a winner, the Lottery’s website almost always posted a $2 million estimated jackpot for the next drawing. That’s when the high-volume bettors jumped in, anticipating a roll-down. But if the jackpot was under $1.6 million, the Lottery’s estimated jackpot for the next drawing was well under $2 million almost every time, so the big bettors held off wagering. Mr. Harvey and his group were looking for a jackpot that was under $1.6 million so that the Lottery didn’t project a roll-down for the following drawing, but still high enough that they could buy enough tickets to trigger a roll-down.
For the plan to work, the MIT group also needed something else: several hundred thousand more betting slips. To single-handedly push a $1.6 million jackpot over the $2 million threshold, the MIT group would have to double the amount it wagered. Instead of buying 300,000 tickets or so, Mr. Harvey said they needed about 700,000 tickets. That in turn meant filling in about 2 million ovals on another 400,000 betting slips. “It took us about a year to ramp up to it,” Mr. Harvey said.
No one won the $1,592,432 jackpot for the drawing on Aug. 12, 2010. The next morning, the Lottery posted its estimated jackpot for the Aug. 16 drawing: $1,675,000. That amount was calculated based on a number of factors, a primary one being historical betting patterns. Estimated jackpots are generated on an automated basis by the Lottery’s computer although they can be overridden by the agency’s technical staff.
This was the opportunity the MIT group had been planning for. With the other high-volume bettors on the sidelines believing Cash WinFall was still one or two drawings away from a roll-down, Mr. Harvey and his partners went into action. Over the next three-and-a-half days, they bought about 700,000 tickets from their usual retailers. The group was placing a big bet, but Mr. Harvey said he wasn’t very worried about someone hitting the jackpot. Of every eight tickets sold for the Aug. 16 drawing, the MIT group would be sitting on seven of them. Mr. Harvey said his primary fear had been that the Lottery would change the estimated jackpot posted on its website, alerting other groups that a roll-down was expected in time for them to jump in. “We had no idea if the Lottery would update their projection,” he said. The Lottery didn’t change their estimate and the drawing proceeded as the MIT group had expected. Shortly after the drawing, the Lottery posted the results. No one won the jackpot so $2,128,979 rolled down.
Lottery records show that the MIT group claimed 18 of the 21 match-five $30,282 prizes, or $545,076. Of the 1,002 tickets sold that matched four of the numbers, the MIT group cashed in 868 of them, or $1,003,408. Because match-threes and match-twos can be redeemed at any Lottery agent, it’s impossible to say how many the MIT group had. Based on its winning percentages in the higher tiers, it’s likely that the MIT group had at least 15,000 match-three winners, each worth $37, as well as 105,000 match-twos, worth about $210,000 in future free bets. In total, on its $1.4 million wager, the MIT group made a $700,000 cash profit.