The powerball lottery suspects fraud, but its the Fortune Cookies

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Who needs Giacomo? Bet on the fortune cookie
New York Times, May 11, 2005, National desk; Pg 1
Jennifer Lee

For the powerball lottery, a player chooses 5 distinct number from 1 to 49 which we will call the basic numbers. In addition you choose another number between 1 to 40 which we will call the "bonus number". The lottery chooses, at random, their 5 basic numbers and their bonus number. If your 6 numbers agree with theirs you win the jackpot (a huge amount)). If their are other jackpot winners you share the jackpot with them .There are additional smaller prizes for getting smaller number of matches. For example if buy a $1 icket and your 5 basic numbers match those chosen by the lottery but you do not choose the same bonus number you get $100,000. which you do not have to share with other such winners. When you buy a $1 lottery ticket, the lottery offers you for $1 another bet called the "Power Play". For the Power Play the lottery choose a number at random from the five numbers 2,3,4,5,5. If make this bet, and you win any prize other than the Jackpot, your prize will be mutiplied the number chosen by the lottery.

On March 30 drawing of the Powerball lottery, 110 players made a $1 bet, choosing as their five basic numbers 22,28,32,33,39 and as their bonus number 40. 21 of these players payed another dollar for the Power Play. The lottery chose the same five basic numbers and 42 for their bonus number and they chose 5 for the power play number. Thus the lottery had to pay 89 of the winners $100,000 and 21 $500,000 dollars for a total of $19.4 million.

Power ball officials stated that considering the number of tickets sold in the 29 states the expected 4 or 5 winners. The lottery does not publish the number of tickets sold. However, the probability of getting the fire basic numbers correct and not getting the bonus number is 1/120,526,770 so

The article quotes Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association as saying:

Panic began at 11:30 pm. March 30 when he got a call from a worred staff member. We didn't sleep a lot that nigh. Is there someone trying to cheat the system?

Then tried a number of theories about the way people choose their numbers. For example the like geometric designs on the ticket when they pick their numbers. Nothing worked but their first three winners said they had gotten the numbers from a fortune cookie. With this lead they just had to find the fortune cookie maker who had the winning numbers. The found that many different brands of fortune cookes come from the same Long Island City factory, owned by Wonton Food which turns out four million a day. When shown the numbers Derrick Wong, of Wonton Food verified that they had used these numbers. The numbers were chosen from a boal but the company plans to switch to having them chosen by a computer.

The article states that the Lottery keeps a $25 million reserve for odd situations. They also have further protections agains events like this one. On the back of the ticket we read

In unusual circumstances, the set prize amount may be paid on a pari-mutual basis which will be lower than the published prize amounts.