January 7, 2019

A Cup of Joe | State Denies Lotto Winner His Grand Prize

PARDALIS & NOHAVICKA NEW YORK STATE LOTTERY LAW UPDATE:  "If your prize is 'LIFE,' win $1,500 a week for life!" Unless the State Says You Lose!

Do you spend a large part of your paycheck on lottery tickets? Do you purchase many scratch-off lottery tickets a day hoping to win big? This week’s case is about Edstan Balgobin, who believed that he finally had the big winning ticket. When he went to collect, he was told by the State that he did not – “No pay, go away” Edstan sued New York.

The instructions for Game 2 of the "Win $1,500 A Week For Life" instant ticket provide, "Match the WINNING NUMBER to any of YOUR NUMBERS, win prize shown. Reveal a '3X symbol', win TRIPLE the prize shown. If your prize is LIFE, win $1,500 a week for life!"

When a player scratches Game 2, the player's winning number (ranging from "1" through "10") and five panels are revealed. Each panel has two elements, a play symbol on top and a corresponding prize symbol on the bottom. To be a winning play symbol entitling the ticket holder to the corresponding prize amount, the play symbol must match the winning number. Possible Game 2 play symbols include numbers "1" through "10" and "3X"

On Edstan's ticket, there was a "rainbow" play symbol directly above the "LIFE" prize symbol — signifying that Edstan did not win the grand prize.

But Edstan argued that based upon the instructions he was entitled to prize money, anyway. He felt that because the instructions for Game 2 and Game 3 of the "Win $1,500 A Week For Life" instant scratch-off ticket read "If your prize is LIFE, win $1,500 a week for life" that any ticket showing a Game 2 or Game 3 prize symbol of "LIFE" was a top prize-winning ticket regardless of whether the prize symbol corresponds with a winning play symbol.

Edstan was arguing that each of the tickets he purchased was a top prize-winning ticket even though the "LIFE" prize amount revealed in one of the Game 2 panels on each of his tickets did not correspond with a play symbol matching the winning number.

Here was NY Loto’s position: It’s Only a Winning Ticket if the State Says So.  Here is why:

The Gaming Commission's regulations require that each claimant must surrender their ticket in order to claim a prize. Edstan did just that.  But the law requires that all disputes between purported winning ticket holders and the Gaming Commission are controlled by 9 NYCRR 5006.9, which states:

"In the event of a dispute between the division and the ticket bearer occurs as to whether the ticket is a winning ticket and if no prize is paid, the commission may, solely at the option of the commission, replace the disputed ticket with an unplayed ticket (or a ticket of equivalent sales price from any other current instant lottery game). THIS REMEDY SHALL BE THE SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE REMEDY OF THE BEARER OF THE TICKET."

Snake eyes! Edstan’s case was dismissed by the court.

Here is the case: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2019/2019_00013.htm

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