Duplicate Mega Millions lottery tickets raise questions

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by Meredith Yeomans

azfamily.com

Posted on March 30, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 12:01 AM

PHOENIX -- Two lottery tickets bought in the Valley are raising eyebrows.

They were purchased by employees at Hughes Performance, a Phoenix company that specializes in rebuilding transmissions.

Jan Bleichroth owns the company and collected money from employees for the big Mega Millions drawing, which just about everyone hopes to win.

“I'm going on vacation, I'm going to buy a new house, I'll buy a boat, whatever,” she said. “So, everybody was having fun on Friday fantasizing.”

Bleichroth collected $145 and went to a QT convenience store where she purchased 145 tickets using Quick Pick, a computer that's supposed to randomly select your numbers for you.

But after bringing the tickets back to her shop and making copies for everyone, one of her employees noticed something peculiar about those two seemingly normal tickets.

“One of the guys, actually I didn't even notice it, one of the guys in the back said, 'You know, you got two tickets here that are exactly the same,” Bleichroth said.

The 60 numbers on one ticket are the exact same as the tickets on the second ticket. Row after row, the numbers are identical on both tickets.

At first, Bleichroth thought the Quick Pick machine accidentally spit out a duplicate ticket. But a closer look at the validation numbers at the bottom of the tickets reveal they are not copies.

“It made us pause and say how can this be?” Bleichroth said.

Bleichroth said the odds of getting 10 identical sets of numbers are higher than winning the lottery itself. Either that or something is wrong, she said, so she contacted 3 On Your Side.

“Is this totally random?” she asked. “It has a lot of us talking about that. How random is lottery? How legitimate is lottery? How uncorrupted is lottery?”

3 On Your Side took this bizarre situation to Arizona Lottery officials, who immediately removed the Quick Pick terminal from the store where the tickets were sold.

That machine is currently being inspected by the company that operates them to determine how the numbers were printed twice.

In an email, the Lottery tells us, “Engineers are continuing to perform a battery of tests and analyses to 1) Determine the root cause of the event with the terminal or system; 2) Determine if there have been past events of a similar nature in Arizona; 3) Certify that no current or future risks are posed to the Arizona Lottery players."

Executive Director Jeff Hatch-Miller says, in part, “Our security team took immediate and appropriate actions to respond to this isolated incident. While statistically possible, it is not probable that two tickets with the same numbers would be issued. Because of the information that we received, the Lottery proceeded with precautionary measures to insure the integrity of our games.”

"The Arizona Lottery takes this matter very seriously. At this time we have no information which would lead the Lottery to suspect this incident was anything beyond an unfortunate technical anomaly. We believe that the Arizona Lottery terminal network and central gaming system remains secure and operating with full integrity."

Still, Bleichroth said the strange ordeal has caused her to question the lottery's legitimacy.

“This is such a huge thing,” she said. “I can't imagine that there's a teeny little glitch that only two identical tickets were ever produced like this number.”

The Arizona Lottery emphasizes how rare it believes this occurrence is.

The final results of the analysis is expected to take a few more days. 3 On Your Side will let you know how that turns out.

In the meantime, the lottery says it is always a good idea to double check your tickets.

Click here for a closer look at the tickets in question

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