Iowa Lotto Employee Wins Big: Two Counts of Fraud

oops-doh-dumb-moveNot supposed to be doing something but can’t remember what it was? In this case a lottery employee forgot he was not allowed to play… The story is that a 14.3 million lottery jackpot went unclaimed for several years. An investigation by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has been conducted on Shaw Tipton with the results now being made public. The purchaser of the winning ticket was an employee of the Iowa lottery system. He is currently being held on two counts of fraud.

It is understandable why there are rules for state lottery employees being unable to participate in most forms of lottery purchases. Scratch tickets or instant winner games are logical because the winning tickets can be identified by batch numbers and bar codes. Drawings can be fixed with a certain amount of effort and collusion. But what is supposed to be a random selection of numbers seems to have something more behind it.

It is Almost Impossible to Rig

Really. The machines that select the winning numbers are mechanized devices that do not permit the handling by human hands, who’s random number generation is almost as good as a computers, with no chance of it being hacked. That leaves someone trying to defraud the pick fixing the weight of the numbered balls, but such a check for equal and balanced weight should be performed prior to each lottery drawing. If it is not, then there is the possibility of random fraud at any given lottery drawing, no matter what the public sees right? So it of course is, and then third party certified.

Where Tipton Went Wrong

The evidence against the lottery employee is in the form of a video surveillance camera showing him purchasing the ticket at a local convenience store. How this directly constitutes as fraud is puzzling. It does not seem possible that he knew of the numbers in advance, unless he was able to purchase the ticket after the drawing went off, a scenario that should not be a possibility if we are talking about fair gaming.

Another point to the story is that he attempted to get a number of people to submit the winning ticket for redemption. This is an obvious admission of wrongdoing on the part of the lottery employee and likely the reason for the fraud charges. Regardless of the outcome of the legal process, it still does not explain why lottery employees are prevented from participating in what is supposed to be a random drawing of numbers.

From what I understand, it would take a multiperson conspiracy that would be able to bypass the checks and audits that are at the core of the lottery system to have any chance at success of rigging the picks whatsoever. And if a lottery employee should play and win a major jackpot, it is reasonable to presume such an event would immediately trigger an internal investigation to determine that the winning ticket was purchased legitimately and the result of the drawing was above board.

Shaw had already planned for the money to go to an offshore account in Belize which is a well-known USA tax heaven, but when his co-conspirators were told the winnings would not be released until all of the parties who has possession of the ticket were reviled. He then forfeited the claim.

It’s Not Always Honesty that Prevails

There is another problem with the prevention logic of the state lottery system in that the retailers who sell the tickets are not held to the same standard, yet fraud is more likely to occur at retail locations. The current design of the system is for the tickets to be electronically scanned to determine whether they are a winner. Not all states require sellers to have scanners independent of the lottery machine behind the counter for players to use to determine whether they are giving the clerk a winning ticket, and the amount of the winner. This leaves new players or people who are a little too trusting vulnerable for underpayments of winning tickets or being completely defrauded by unethical lottery ticket sellers.

If initially this appears to be a defense of the lottery employee, it is not. He clearly knew the rules of his employment and took the wrong path. It is doubtful he actually knew he would win the $14.3 million, and it also likely he had played prior to hitting the jackpot and pocketed the money from smaller winning tickets. Seriously, does anyone buy a ticket and really expect to win a million dollars?

What is now under question is the extreme limitations placed on lottery employees when it comes to playing the random number games and how breaching them should be punished.

Official Web Site of the Iowa Lottery including Winning Numbers, Promotions and Games

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Jared Bates

I have been working in, and with different casinos for over twenty years, and as such I have seen many things happen to gambling online and offline. From Vegas to Atlantic City, and small places in between, my passion lies with games where I can win money.

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