Even if you think you won the lottery, it all has to go through an official audit

February 21 – A Washington, DC, man is suing the organizers of the Powerball for putting the wrong winning numbers up on their website, making him think he won $340 million. 

When John Cheeks went to cash in his lottery ticket in January of last year, he was told, oh, we’re sorry, the numbers on the website weren’t the right ones. 

The wrong numbers were left on the website for three days, according to the lawsuit filed in DC Superior Court. 

Cheeks is taking the whole thing to a judge – he wants the full $340 million. 

His lawyer, Richard Evans said, “This is not merely about numbers on a website. It’s about the reliability of institutions that promise life changing opportunities while heavily profiting in the process.”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “This reminds me there’s a famous case from years ago in Kentucky where a radio station was offering 100 grand to caller number 10 and the lady is called number 10. They say you’ve won 100 grand and on the air she’s saying oh, this is going to be life changing. I’m going to buy a house, etc. She showed up the next day to the prize ceremony and they gave her a candy bar. It went to court. I believe that case settled out of court, but much like this lottery case, some of it hinges on what are your damages? Even if Powerball is in the wrong here, how has this guy been really damaged? There’s where I think his case is going to break down.”

Some of the lottery drawings are careful with their wording about auditing. 

Barkdoll said, “If you watch the Pennsylvania drawing at seven o’clock every night, it’ll say numbers are subject to auditing and they even put on the screen the name of an auditing firm. I think that’s sort of the indemnity that Powerball will use is that just because they were posted, none of its final until we’ve rendered it final via an outside auditing firm. So I don’t think this guy, there’s no way he gets $340-some million. They may offer him just some nominal settlement, but it’s going to be pennies. I mean, if he thinks this is going to come in the millions of dollars, I think he’s out of luck.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “I saw a local story that actually interviewed the man. He didn’t suffer through a long period of time believing he had won. I find it funny. They show him, he self describes what happened. So I think it was on the second day of three days that this was posted. He saw the numbers he said he won. He said he just called a friend and said hey, I won the lottery. $340 million. The friend said take a picture of the screen, which he did and then he went to sleep. He went to bed. I mean, that’s an odd reaction, I feel and then he says he went and they said throw the ticket away, it’s not worth anything and he immediately put it in a safety deposit box and called a lawyer. Now he then went on to talk in depth about how the reason he didn’t get excited is because he was too busy with work trying to set up a bank that would make loans to people who normally couldn’t get good credit and I feel like are you doing a sob story here to try to convince a jury that you deserve this money because you’re going to use it to benefit other people? I just find it an odd story in that sense. Plus, they did cite a precedent of an Iowa Lottery where for about I think it was six hours from one something in the morning until seven something in the morning they posted the wrong numbers. But in that case, the winners only get one from $4 to $200. It was thousands of winners who would have won from $4 to $200. When they corrected the numbers, thousands of winners won from $4 to $200. But according to the news story, they did end up paying out for the good numbers, but that was a far less amount that we’re talking about here.”

Barkdoll suggested, “They may have done that just in good faith because it was a small amount of money, but I just don’t see this guy getting any traction. I certainly would share his frustration. I mean, if you’re in his shoes, I can understand why this must be maddening. But they weren’t the official numbers. I mean, they were erroneously posted on a screen. That’s not the numbers that were actually drawn legally, it’s the drawn numbers subject to the audit verification that are the true numbers.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “Funny, I thought I thought it’d be worth at least a couple of million dollars. Don’t you think that hey, this would have been better if the lottery figured out a way? This is not the best press in the world here. This doesn’t really look good on Powerball’s behalf. But it’s a little squirrely the more facts that come out on this one.”

Barkdoll wondered, “Tying it back to the 100 Grand candy bar story. I think in that case, the radio station settled as a good faith gesture. Maybe that’s what the lottery will do here because they’re not going to want this ongoing adverse publicity. Now, I don’t know what a fair settlement would look like, but I would imagine that’s an effort that they’ll try to make out of court.”