back to article Feds widen probe into lottery IT boss who rooted game for profit

Federal investigators in the US are widening a probe into fraud by the former IT security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association (MSLA). In July, Eddie Tipton, 52, was found guilty of installing a rootkit in the MSLA's random-number generating computer that allowed him to predict the digits for future winning tickets …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    'his brother, Tommy Tipton, said that the footage didn’t show his sibling, remarking: "Eddie's not a hot dog guy."'

    What could be more convincing? (Answers on a very large postcard).

    1. N13L5

      "The System" is the original fraud...

      Then they act surprised that people add their own little frauds on top of it?

      To all the 'cops and robbers' playing children: go home, its such a stupid and boring game.

  2. M7S
    Black Helicopters

    Thank goodness it's only money...

    ...and that no sysadmin could introduce a weakness into something important such as electronic voting.

    Given the relative importance of the former in some places and the protection it should properly have, I shudder to think how apparently vulnerable the latter could be to the unscrupulous.

  3. Efros

    Broke the fundamental rule

    Do it once, do it big and whether it succeeds or fails never ever do it again!

    1. elDog

      Re: Broke the fundamental rule

      But it's never big enough. Get that first hit of good stuff and pretty soon you and your girlfriends and relatives are going to want some more.

      1. skeptical i

        Re: Broke the fundamental rule

        re: "it's never big enough"

        Pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered.

    2. glen waverley

      Re: Broke the fundamental rule

      At a place I used to work at, we knew that we only ever caught the stupid and the greedy.

      But there were enough of them to keep the hit rate high.

    3. glen waverley

      Re: Broke the fundamental rule

      Of course, if the "do it once" amount is too big, that moves the perp into the greedy category (or sometimes the stupid category) and they get noticed.

      1. P. Lee

        Re: Broke the fundamental rule

        Do it once, do it big, collect through a very good law firm while in a non-extradition country.

  4. Winkypop Silver badge

    Pity an innocent friend or associate

    Imagine getting a genuine lottery win and then being told you're being investigated because you live next to a guy who once serviced the (alleged) perp's car...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pity an innocent friend or associate

      Probability says no.... but it would sure make a great made-for-TV film story.

      We could call it "Breaking all odds"...

      1. razorfishsl

        Re: Pity an innocent friend or associate

        Or you could call it "Lucky numbers" and make the film over 20 years ago......

  5. Frumious Bandersnatch

    and people wonder why we complain about voting machines

    Sure, if you hack the lottery you might get a million here or a million there, but that's peanuts compared to the potential payoff from fixing an election.

    edit: didn't notice m7s's similar post when I wrote the above...

  6. Richard Lloyd

    Don't win the jackpot...

    I suspect jackpot winners are scrutinised a lot more thoroughly than lower tier winners, so why not fiddle a second place win (or, if you want to be very safe, the highest tier where you can claim the prize with no ID required). Of course, you'd either play online via proxies/Tor/VPN (though payments could be traceable then if they're done online too) or play offline at different locations and don't claim the prize in person (CCTV, remember?), though you'll have to cut your stooge(s) in for a percentage share and they'd have to be very trustworthy.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Don't win the jackpot...

      In most lotteries, the most one can claim without an ID is only a few hundred dollars (in Virginia, for example, it's $600, when a $1 Pick 3 Exact hit is $500). Beyond that, you have to go to the regional offices that mean all the paperwork and so on. Plus at $5,000 the feds get involved because gambling winnings are considered an income that requires withholding at those levels.

      What I want to know is how he was able to game the game when most lotteries use mechanical randomizers which typically are inspected before each drawing.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Don't win the jackpot...

      so why not fiddle a second place win

      Who says folks aren't?

      There are plenty of news stories about suspicious lottery successes. Some of those may well be the folks who are too greedy to go unnoticed, but haven't been blatant enough to get caught in the act. Then we might posit a tail of folks going for the low-hanging fruit.

      There are plenty of criminals satisfied with small scores. Just today the newspaper had a story about a guy who was busted for forging $5 bills, which seems like it must come in under the minimum wage. (I doubt he was doing it at any appreciable volume.) And no doubt many of them never get caught.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    his lawyer is right.. he did not make any changes that would affect the numbers generated

    however he allowed himself a way of predicting the numbers. This does not make it acceptable Mr lawyer sir...

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    If it comes out of a machine, it ain't random.

    1. Charles 9

      By your logic, nothing is random because lifeforms are pretty deterministic, too. Which then asks the question, "What about chaos theory?" And what about those hardware RNGs you're seeing more and more often based on physically-shown-to-be-random phenomena?

      But it's kinda hard to game a mechanical randomizer that's inspected by a third party firm before each drawing and supervised during the drawing. Based on past instances of corruption, they've come up with a pretty effective system to minimize the odds using multiple machines and multiple sets of balls.

      1. Hans 1


        You do not get the point ... Who in their right mind trusts software which processes lottery results ? Same for the online casino sites ? If you trust that shit, you should be removed from any IT-related work.

        1. Lottery/casino's PRIME goal, like ANY OTHER company, is to make AS MUCH money AS POSSIBLE!

        2. Employees of lottery/casino company write the software to achieve 1.

        Feel free to replace "lottery/casino company" with "governing political party", "MUCH" with "many", and "money" with "votes".


        1. Charles 9

          And YOU don't get the point. Lotteries are a regulated industry because gambling can be subject to federal regulation concerning gambling. State lotteries (and by law, lotteries MUST be done by the states) therefore walk a fine line to make sure they don't get involved.

          1. Lotteries don't need to game their systems to earn money. They work the same way casinos do: their games are structured so that the odds always favor them, allowing them to take a profit even with the odd winner. That's why a typical Pick 3 $1 Exact hit only pays $500 while the odds of hitting are 1 in 1,000. Plus games with big top prizes tend to have liability limits in case there's a run on the top prize.

          2. If you haven't actually played the traditional lottery, you should know the numbers for these games are drawn from mechanical randomizers. Where does software fit into a mechanical (ie. hardware) randomizer? And note, for security reasons, these drawings are televised.

          1. NotBob

            I'm not sure from the article that we are talking about the traditional numbers-on-balls lottery. Scratch off tickets are still considered "lottery" in my state, but the results are technically predetermined at printing.

            I knew someone who supposedly could figure out the pattern (changed by the roll or so) on some games. Every so many losing cards, he knew the next one would be a winner. Just a matter of waiting for enough people to buy the losers before he bought a winner. Not sure if that's been fixed or not...

            1. Charles 9

              Would be tough to prove. I have firsthand evidence that the pattern's tough to predict. Once saw a guy buy out the last 14 tickets of a book of 40. Not one winner. Over a third of the book. And the overall odds of these things typically hang around 1 in 4.

  9. Swarthy Silver badge

    This is kind of an eye-opener

    "It reaffirms the fact that we've got to be constantly vigilant against people trying to defraud the system." He went on to say "It's the system's job to defraud the people!"

  10. Turtle


    "Tipton was sentenced to ten years in prison after CCTV caught him buying a $16.5m winning ticket in the Iowa state lottery. He is free on bail while appealing his conviction. He has already been charged with criminal conduct and money laundering in three more states."

    Let's see: convicted of a $16.5 million scam, a very strong suspect in others worth another $8 million, charged with criminal conduct and money laundering in three other states, and his possible actions in another 30-something lotteries need to be investigated under the strong suspicion that not all of his scams have been uncovered.

    And! He's 52 years old - which means that he's looking at charges with sentences that could send him away for the rest of his life.

    The chances of his having access to large sums of money from scams in as-yet-to-be investigated systems seems very great; that would make him a real flight risk.

    Why's he out on bail?

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Re: Bail.

      > Why's he out on bail?

      The picture shows him as white, can't you read?

      1. Turtle

        @I. Ap Re: Bail.

        "'Why's he out on bail?' The picture shows him as white, can't you read?"

        The problem with stupid comments like this is that the people who make them often believe them.

  11. Eddy Ito

    More proof

    Lotteries are just taxes on people who are bad at maths.

    1. DropBear

      Re: More proof

      Only if they play regularly. I suppose you're aware of the anecdote concerning a poor Scotsman praying to the Lord every night for a lottery win - until one night God actually replies "I'd love to help you out son, but you do have to buy a ticket first..."

      1. Bucky 2

        Re: More proof

        "I'd love to help you out son, but you do have to buy a ticket first..."

        The odds of winning without having bought a ticket (perhaps finding the winning ticket on the ground or being left one in a will or something) are pretty similar to winning after having bought a ticket.

        So...God's mistaken on this one. Much the way he screwed up by making the avocado pit too big.

        1. Charles 9

          Re: More proof

          "The odds of winning without having bought a ticket (perhaps finding the winning ticket on the ground or being left one in a will or something) are pretty similar to winning after having bought a ticket."

          No, it's a world of difference. 0 in X, for any nonzero X, is always zero. 1 in X may be infinitesimally small, but it's still not zero. An infinitesimally small chance is always preferable to no chance at all.

    2. Fatman

      Re: More proof

      <quote>Lotteries are just taxes on people who are bad at maths the best example of a stupidity tax.</quote>


    3. Turtle

      @Eddy Ito Re: More proof

      "Lotteries are just taxes on people who are bad at maths."

      I used to think that too but I recently reconsidered and am now of the opinion that such a view is often incorrect; I think that more often, lotteries are a tax on unfounded optimism, wishfulness, and magical thinking.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: @Eddy Ito More proof

        I think that more often, lotteries are a tax on unfounded optimism, wishfulness, and magical thinking.

        I think for many purchasers it's equally valid to view them as an entertainment expense.

        Now, I don't find them very entertaining, and thus reserve my entertainment budget for other uses; but economically speaking there's really very little difference between, say, going to the cinema1 and buying a lottery ticket. They're both exchanging some money for a psychological payoff.

        No doubt some people honestly believe there's a chance they could make money playing the lottery, as there are for all forms of gambling. Such people are guilty of the attributes you list, and may well be suffering from addictive behavior. They may also be innumerate. But that doesn't describe all lottery players (I know some), and my guess is it doesn't describe most of them.

        1I don't do that either; it's just an example. Of course I couldn't use my own preferred forms of entertainment as examples because they are all noble, enlightening pursuits.

    4. Efros
      Paris Hilton

      Re: More proof

      I do agree with that, however, I'm beginning to wonder if my pension payments should be diverted into buying lottery tickets. The way things are going I think I might get better returns on the investment. Paris cos there's no other example of my post lottery win retirement leisure plan.

    5. Gannon (J.) Dick

      Re: More proof

      The Texas schools are supported by the Lottery.

      Not only is the Legislature bad at maths, but apparently they want the all kids to share the dream.

  12. JoeTheAnnoying

    What ever happened to "employees and family members may not participate"?

    I thought it was S.O.P. that employees of companies that offered sweepstakes, prizes, and so forth were ineligible to win such prizes, precisely to avoid such corruption.

    What? The government forgot that clause?

    Oh, WHAT a surprise! Color me astonished.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: What ever happened to "employees and family members may not participate"?

      It's there. Only the suspect used false identities and shills to get around that rule.

  13. Barbarian At the Gates

    So much for randomly generated

    "installing a rootkit in the MSLA's random-number generating computer that allowed him to predict the digits for future winning tickets"

    Either there are errors in this sentence, or the random-number generating computer isn't generating random numbers. Given the charges levied, it seems the latter would be the case.

    So, after finding out who benefited from gaming the system, crack investigators...find out who implemented the "random" number generator and sack them. I'm pretty sure there's enough free cash flow from this lottery to ensure you could hire a competent implementation of a random number generator.

  14. ecofeco Silver badge

    It's all rigged

    Just another reminder that everything is rigged.


  15. N13L5

    Yes, there's a tax on stupidity and....

    ...those who get smart go to the slammer.

  16. bex

    Why do Americans think trusting electronics for voting and lotteries is a good idea (it's not especially when contracted out)

  17. teknopaul Silver badge

    high tech

    You gotta check

    Classic Web design.

    <body background="images/bg_bluelines.jpg" leftmargin="15" topmargin="15" marginwidth="15" marginheight="15">

    <div align="center">

    <table width="740" height="560" border="0" cellpadding="2"...

    Pre css!

    Loads pretty fast.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like