Texas Lottery Players Demand $248 Million
AUSTIN, Texas (CN) - The company that runs the Texas Lottery cheated winners of a total of $248 million in the Fun 5's instant scratch-off game, hundreds of plaintiffs claim in court.
Lead plaintiff James Steele sued GTECH Corporation on Tuesday in Travis County Court, alleging negligence, tortious interference and breach of fiduciary duty.
Steele claims that GTECH was responsible for the design, official rules and instructions for the Fun 5's game, also known as "Instant Game No. 1592." There were five games on each ticket.
GTECH also made the computer validation program the Texas Lottery used to determine which were "winning" tickets and which were "non-winning" tickets.
The Texas Lottery Commission began selling the Fun 5's tickets around Sept. 1 this year. The rules, as published in the Texas Register, stated: "If a player reveals three '5' Play Symbols in any one row, column or diagonal, the player wins the PRIZE in the PRIZE box. If a player reveals a MONEY BAG Play Symbol in the 5X BOX, the player wins 5 times that PRIZE."
The problem for the plaintiffs is that a "Non-Winning Ticket" was defined as "[a] Ticket which is not programmed to be a winning Ticket or a Ticket that does not meet all of the requirements of these Game Procedures, the State Lottery Act (Texas Government Code, Chapter 466), and applicable rules adopted by the Texas Lottery pursuant to the State Lottery Act and referenced in 16 TAC, Chapter 401."
In other words, the plaintiffs say, "a ticket will be treated as a 'Non-Winning Ticket' by the Texas Lottery Commission if GTECH fails to validate the ticket as a 'Winning Ticket,' even if the ticket otherwise meets all the criteria of being a winning ticket under the official game procedures."
"Almost immediately after the first tickets were sold, consumers began complaining to the Lottery Commission that although their tickets revealed a Money Bag symbol in Game 5, GTECH's computer program was nonetheless validating their winning tickets as 'Non-Winning Tickets,'" the lawsuit states.
Steele says this happened because of GTECH's flawed computer validation program, which "added a requirement for a ticket to be validated as a 'Winning Ticket' that was not present in the instructions printed on the Fun 5's tickets and was not present in the official game procedures."
He claims that GTECH began receiving complaints in early September, but GTECH "knowingly and intentionally decided to continue using its non-conforming computer validation program to validate winning tickets as 'Non-Winning Tickets.'"
"Had GTECH corrected its error and changed its computer validation program to conform to the instructions printed on the Fun 5's tickets and the language of the official game procedures, it would have exposed the Texas Lottery to a total payout for the Fun 5's game far in excess of the payout GTECH originally calculated for the Texas Lottery," the complaint states.
The Texas Lottery announced on Oct. 21 that it was ending the Fun 5's game because of "confusion," and because it had to create games that are "clear to understand for our players."
The hundreds of plaintiffs say they all had a Money Bag symbol in Game 5 and were supposed to receive five times the prize amount printed on their tickets. But GTECH's program called their winning tickets "Non-Winning Tickets."
They failed to receive a total of more than $248 million in prize money, the plaintiffs say.
They want the money, plus exemplary damages for fraud.
They are represented by Richard L. LaGarde of Houston.