texas lottery 3

The Big Ticket card makes it confusing for players to know whether they won or lost.

I see a pattern with the Texas Lottery. In two recent games, the game cards make it confusing for scratch-off game players to know if they won or lost.

They think they lost, but they may have won.

That’s one reason the lottery reports about $70 million in unclaimed prize money for each of the last couple of years.

Think of that. Game players won $70 million last year that they didn’t know they won. Nobody claimed the money. And that $70 million goes back into the state’s general fund so lawmakers can spend it as they wish.

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Dave Lieber

The Watchdog cries foul.

The new scratch-off game, launched last month, is called The Big Ticket.

One card costs $10. On a card, there are four different scratch-off games.

The problem is that on the two bottom games — Funky 8’s and Neon 9’s — the tickets show there are 20 numbers, but actually there are only 15 because the other five are above rather than below where the markings are.

Dawn Nettles of Garland, leader of the lottery watchdog website LottoReport.com, alerted The Watchdog to the latest lottery snafu. Nettles first reported this latest lottery failure on her site.

Nettles says she believes the game is deceptive, which is a strong word to use about a state-sponsored project of any type. State officials are supposed to protect us from deceptive predators, not offer them across the counter at your neighborhood gas station.

The problem, Nettles says, is the printing is off. The place where players would usually scratch for their numbers is not where players expect it to be. Half the time, she estimates, a player would throw out his or her ticket and not realize it could be a winner.

As Nettles explains, “Most players will scratch under the words ‘Winning Numbers’ and under ‘Your Numbers’ on scratch tickets. This is because this is where they expect to find those numbers.

“On this ticket,” she adds, “problem is the players will miss a whole line of numbers” because of where the directions are placed. They fail to scratch where usually they wouldn’t and miss key numbers.”

One clerk thanked her profusely for the heads-up tip in her web report, she says. Why? He’s finding winners that customers tossed.

That’s so wrong.

I don’t trust the lottery

This is the second time recently I’ve caught the lottery doing this.

In their big Willy Wonka Golden Ticket game — the one where they promised someone would win a billion dollars but nobody did — a key number needed to register for the billion-dollar drawing was not marked on the ticket.

I had to call state officials and ask where it’s hidden.

Nettles asked lottery officials to pull The Big Ticket game off the shelves. Her request was denied.

Lottery director Gary Grief tells me the following in a written statement:

“We reviewed the LottoReport story about The Big Ticket game and did not identify any issues that hinder the play of this game. Many Texas Lottery players prefer extended play games like The Big Ticket, which offers four different games and 56 chances to win a prize ...

“Before a player discards a ticket, we recommend that they double check their own tickets and independently determine their prizes before presenting them to a retailer for validation by using a self-service Check-a-Ticket machine or self-service lottery vending machines provided at one of the Texas Lottery’s 17,000+ retail locations. Players can also download the Texas Lottery app to a smartphone to check their lottery tickets.”

Grief, which, by the way, is a sad name for the man in charge of giving away billions, continues: “We want every winner to claim their prize. It is important to note that in fiscal year 2018, the Texas Lottery paid out $3.67 billion in prizes in contrast to $71.29 million (1.9% of total prizes) that went into the unclaimed prize fund benefiting other state programs.”

Make lottery games clearer

Hey, how about spending some of that money for better printing and proofing of your games?

If, as happens in this case, longtime players expect to scratch for key numbers in a certain place on tickets, and then it’s changed without notice so people miss the key numbers, that’s a serious problem.

I experienced it when I scratched the tickets. Confusing, for sure. But is it incompetence or intentional?

My recommendation as The Watchdog is to be very leery of these scratch-off games. Don’t be part of that $70 million-a-year group of winners who turn into losers.

It’s like a hide-and-seek game with your money. Why not stand in the middle of the street and throw a $10 bill in the air? Same results.

Here’s where I wish I could play the sound of a sad trombone.

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