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Press release

December 24, 2001

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December, 2001 | Consumer Protection



SACRAMENTO - Officials at the California State Lottery announced today that aggressive steps were taken several months ago to ensure the fairness of prize distribution in its Scratchers® games. The changes were following the discovery that some Scratchers games were continuing after the last top prize had been claimed. Winning tickets for prizes below the top prize continued to be available.

"Each Scratchers game is unique," explained Joan Wilson, Lottery chief executive officer. "There are always at least several top prizes awarded in every game, typically between 15 and 100 depending on the specific game. The problem we encountered had to do with when a game ends and the need to add a procedure to ensure we promptly stopped play when few top prizes were available."

After surveying 137 games that were introduced since July 1996, Lottery officials determined that 11 of those games had been kept on the market after the last top prize ticket had been sold. "Compared to a total of over $4.8 billion in total revenue from Scratchers sales, this oversight netted about $892,000 in revenue after the last top prize was finally claimed during this period. To put it into perspective, this amount represents less than 2/100ths of one percent of the total Scratchers revenue," said Wilson.

Further, it should be noted that typically more than 90 percent of the prize money in Scratchers games is dedicated to winnings other than the top prize. In these eleven games, there were still many other prizes available -- in fact, the Lottery paid out approximately $2.3 million in other prizes in those 11 games after the last top prize had been claimed.

"Nevertheless, we felt it was important to shore up the procedure," said Wilson. Once the Lottery became aware of the issues and to avoid a recurrence, Lottery officials immediately instituted new processes. Tickets are now removed when only one top prize remains. If the last top prize is claimed during the roughly four week process to shut a game down, retailers will be notified immediately via electronic messaging to stop selling that game, and consumers will be notified of this fact in-store. Up to four weeks is required to stop a game as the sales force is notified, tickets are being picked up manually from more than 18,000 retail outlets throughout the state and returns are processed.

"We are actually taking more aggressive steps than our counterparts in other states, including Massachusetts," noted Wilson. "Most other lotteries end their instant ticket games after they discover the last top prize has been claimed. Since last spring, we have been ending games when only one top prize is remaining."

Accordingly, Scratchers players can be reassured that top prizes are available through the point until retailers are electronically notified. To ascertain how many top prizes are left in any given game, players may call 1-800-LOTTERY during normal business hours (M-F, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except holidays).

To further reassure Californians that the situation has been corrected and to help maintain player confidence, a special Scratchers promotion is planned for February. "With a non-winning ticket from any game - past or present - players can enter a second chance drawing at no additional cost to win prizes from $1,000 to $25,000," said Wilson. A total of $1 million in additional prize money will be made available to Scratchers players.

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See More Press Releases: December, 2001 | Consumer Protection |