Massachusetts has closed a lottery loophole that virtually assured big spending gamblers of a profit.
Savvy professional gamblers figured out that if they bought more than $100,000 worth of Cash WinFall tickets at certain times of the year, they were sure to win, the Boston Globe reported Sunday. That prompted the state to restrict stores to selling just $5,000 worth of the tickets per day.
The game is based on a half-dozen randomly chosen numbers, with odds of getting all six 1 in 9,366,819. If nobody won for three months and the jackpot topped $2 million, but no one picked all six numbers, the money would go to players who picked only four or five. These periods, known as "rolldown weeks," saw prizes up to 10 times larger than normal, The Globe reported.
Gamblers figured out that if they bought more than $100,000 of the two-dollar tickets during rolldown weeks, their odds of winning went up dramatically — and they won a bigger prize. The Globe said the payoff for five matching numbers might rise from $4,000 to as much as $134,767.
Lottery officials first noticed in 2005 that a few groups who had formed gambling companies were pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into Cash WinFall. The five biggest winners were earning back the cost of their tickets plus up to $6 million a year during the rolldowns without ever hitting the jackpot, according to Canadian statistician Mohan Srivastava. In May, during a rolldown week, there were 1,605 prizes awarded, 1,105 of which went to just three winners.