Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What're The Odds?

Here's an interesting legal story buried in today's Washington Post: It seems that Washington & Lee professor who likes to play the Virginia scratch off lottery figured out the lottery was cheating it's customers, and decided to sue.

In the scratch off lottery, players purchase tickets at various outlets such as convenience stores and gas stations. W&L professor Scott Hoover purchased tickets hoping to win the grand prize of $75,000, but later learned that all the grand prize tickets had been redeemed before his purchase.

In other words, Hoover's chances of winning the grand prize were exactly zero, which was pretty easy for the the professor of statistics to figure out.

According to the Post story, Virginia Lottery officials are supposed to have all the scratch tickets removed within one day of the last grand prize ticket being redeemed, but Hoover learned through a series of freedom of information requests that the Lottery had routinely been ignoring that rule. (And you thought those crossed fingers in the Virginia Lottery's logo were for good luck!)

So now he's filed a class action suit, asserting that the Commonwealth earned $84 million since 2003 with this little trick.

Bully for Hoover. We doubt he'll ever win millions in his lawsuit--despite his lawyer's dreams (lawyers typically seek roughly 40% of the cut of any recovery in suits such as this; it's known as the legal lottery, or to regular folks as the "tort system.") But at a minimum he'll surely cause the Virginia Lottery to begin following it's rules and maybe cause a shake-up in the Lottery administration.

No comments: