The Powerball lottery has swollen to $1.3 billion. “Biggest jackpot in the history of the world. Absolutely confirmed,” Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery, which is part of the Multi-State Lottery Association that runs Powerball, told the Associated Press. Meanwhile, the Association is quietly trying to deal with a multi-state jackpot rigging scandal that has forced the man who has run the Powerball game for 28 years to be placed on indefinite administrative leave.
In December 2010, a man walked into a Quik Trip convenience store on Des Moines’ north side and bought what would become the winning ticket in a Hot Lotto draw with a $16.5 million jackpot, according to court documents.
The prize was unclaimed for nearly a year. In November 2011, a Canadian man contacted the Iowa Lottery claiming to be the winner. A month later, he said he was not the winner himself, but represented the anonymous winner. Later that month, a New York lawyer came forward to claim the prize for a Belize-based trust. No one involved could provide the basic details of the winner, information required by Iowa law. Eventually, the attorney withdrew the claim to the jackpot and the money went back to the states where the tickets were sold.
As it turned out, the man at the QuikTrip was Eddie Tipton, the Multi-State Lottery Association’s information security director. He was arrested, and fired, in January of last year. In July, the Des Moines Register reports, he was convicted of two counts of fraud, and was sentenced in December to 10 years in prison, though not before being accused, in October, of helping his brother and a friend win more than $1.3 million in the Wisconsin and Colorado lotteries. (The case subsequently expanded further, to Oklahoma and Kansas.) According to the Register, this is the first ever trial of a defendant accused of rigging a lottery computer.
“It’s financial crimes where you can deter other people from committing similar crimes,” Assistant Iowa Attorney General Rob Sand said during the December sentencing hearing. “This isn’t someone who got drunk in a bar and decided to assault someone. This isn’t someone who committed a single act that they later thought better of...It is calculating decisions made one after another, according to plan, in order to attempt to defraud the Iowa Lottery.”
In October, Charles Strutt, executive director since its 1987 founding of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game, was removed from his post, the Associated Press reported, by the association’s board. From the AP:
Strutt, 63, retains support among some board members and hopes to return to his position when the Tipton case concludes, said Dawn Nettles, a Texas-based lottery watchdog who said she spoke with Strutt about his leave in October.
“The truth is, the lotteries voted Chuck out. They’re holding him accountable for the actions of that security guy,” Nettles said. “But they don’t want anybody to know.”
Strutt was its first employee when six states formed the association to offer the nation’s first multi-state game, Lotto America. The group launched Powerball in 1992, and the game has since generated some of the world’s largest jackpots and billions of dollars in revenue for 44 states that now participate. Strutt also helped establish the association’s other games, which collectively surpass $5 billion in annual sales. He earned $322,000 in compensation in 2013.
“Powerball uses numbered balls to generate winning combinations,” Rob Sand, assistant attorney general in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, told Gawker in a statement. “The games Eddie Tipton allegedly fixed use computer-generated numbers, not balls. Tipton wrote those programs and built the computers that housed them. Eddie Tipton did not have responsibility or access to Powerball while he was at MUSL.”
Anyway, the next Powerball drawing is Wednesday night. Chances of winning are 1 in 292.2 million.