Canadian statistician “cracks” scratch card code

TORONTO – In the Freakonomics section of the New York Times , there is a short review of an article in Wired Magazine that profiles Mohan Srivastava, a Toronto based statistician. Srivastava claims to be able to predict whether or not a “tic-tac-toe” scratch card is a winner or not. The article in full at Wired can be found at the bottom of this page.

Jonah Lehrer, from Wired, wrote the original profile of the statistician. Below is the review in the New York Times:

“The tic-tac-toe lottery was seriously flawed,” writes Lehrer. ”It took a few hours of studying his tickets and some statistical sleuthing, but he discovered a defect in the game: The visible numbers turned out to reveal essential information about the digits hidden under the latex coating. Nothing needed to be scratched off—the ticket could be cracked if you knew the secret code.” Srivastava took his findings to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and the game was quickly pulled from stores, but Lehrer wonders if Srivastava is the only person to have cracked a lottery.

“Consider a series of reports by the Massachusetts state auditor. The reports describe a long list of troubling findings, such as the fact that one person cashed in 1,588 winning tickets between 2002 and 2004 for a grand total of $2.84 million. (The report does not provide the name of the lucky winner.) A 1999 audit found that another person cashed in 149 tickets worth $237,000, while the top 10 multiple-prize winners had won 842 times for a total of $1.8 million. Since only six out of every 100,000 tickets yield a prize between $1,000 and $5,000, the auditor dryly observed that these ‘fortunate’ players would have needed to buy ‘hundreds of thousands to millions of tickets.’”

There’s a lot more to be said about lotteries; and there’s also the no-lose lottery to consider.

Full Wired article.

Published: February 9, 2011

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