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Big Scratch-Off Ticket Glitch Caused Winners to Be Told They Lost—How It Happened

A player was confused when his winning tickets were labeled losers.

If gambling feels too high stakes but you still want a piece of the action, scratch-offs might be your best bet (no pun intended). Scratch-offs can range from $1 to $50 per ticket, and typically have better odds of winning—or at least, breaking even—than Powerball or Mega Millions. Of course, that's contingent on the lottery machine actually working that day, as one scratch-off winner recently learned.

RELATED: Gas Station Worker Reveals Secrets to Winning Money From Scratch-Off Tickets.

Rhode Island resident Nick Williams was elated to claim his winnings last week after buying a round of scratch-offs that turned out to be winning tickets. However, Williams' victory dance was quickly cut short when the Rhode Island Lottery app notified him that he was "not a winner."

In an interview with GoLocalProv, Williams said he was "confused" and in disbelief about the situation, as he clearly had winning tickets in his possession.

"I checked the tickets several more times only to receive the same message from the app," he told the news outlet. Williams said that when he scanned the scratch-offs a pop-up alert would appear reading, "Ticket #xxxxx has been scanned. SORRY. NOT A WINNER. GOOD LUCK NEXT TIME."

Flummoxed, Williams returned to where he had bought the scratch-offs and asked a store employee to scan the tickets using their lottery machine. But the store couldn't check, because the counter machine was in offline mode until 5 a.m. local time.

Williams tried using the app once more at 4 a.m., but was given the same message. Once 5 a.m. rolled around, however, the Rhode Island resident gave it one last shot and this time the message was different: He was finally named a scratch-off winner.

RELATED: The 6 Hottest Lottery Tips From the Biggest Winners.

According to Williams, the Rhode Island Lottery app doesn't specify when "regular wagering hours" are in his area. He explained to GoLocalProv that this whole ordeal could have been avoided if the app had simply told him when to scan his tickets for an accurate reading. Instead, the app seemed to be telling players that they lost—even if they had winning tickets.

"If the scanner does not work during off hours, it should absolutely give the player a message that says 'Sorry, tickets can only be scanned between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.' or whatever the 'regular wagering hours' are," Williams told GoLocalProv. "They should never be told that a winning ticket is a loser."

Williams' experience was brought to the attention of Rhode Island Lottery, which later revealed its systems had been experiencing a glitch.

"The Rhode Island Lottery makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of information available on our website and app. Recently, an app scanning issue was brought to our attention. We identified an incorrect message related to some instant ticket games associated with the scan feature on the app that may occur when the retail lottery system is offline daily from approximately 1:15 AM to 5 AM (7 AM on Sundays)," Paul Grimaldi, spokesperson of the R.I. Department of Revenue, told GoLocalProv in a statement.

Grimaldi added, "In-state and multi-state draw games as well as, iLottery games were unaffected. We worked diligently with our vendor to rectify this instant ticket scanning message issue. Our vendor developed, tested, and released a fix so that this incorrect instant ticket message no longer appears."

RELATED: The 12 Lottery Numbers Most Likely to Win Big, New Data Shows.

Though an apparently easy fix, Williams said it never should have happened. He noted there are likely other players like him, whose scratch-offs were labeled "losers" just because they were scanned during the wrong hours.

There's even the possibility that they didn't have the foresight to hold onto those false negative tickets, and ended up missing out on their rightful winnings.

"I wonder how many people have used this ticket scanner after hours only to throw away an actual winning ticket? Wasn't there an unclaimed million dollar Powerball winner not too long ago? Considering how late the Powerball is announced, it seems plausible that the player with that ticket checked it after midnight and was told that million dollar ticket was a loser," Williams suggested.

It isn't uncommon for a lottery prize to go unclaimed. According to NBC 4 Washington, for Powerball or Mega Millions tickets that expire, the money "is returned to the state lotteries in proportion to their sales." For smaller prizes, like scratch-offs, the unclaimed prize may be redirected to local funds or lottery profits, or funneled into the state's budget.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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