A batch of Texas Lotto scratch-offs have become a major source of contention for frustrated lotto players, who say the language on Fun 5 is misleading. And for that confusion, they say they're owed millions.
The controversy revolving around Fun 5 is limited to one specific game on the card -- Game 5 -- which gives players the following instructions for identifying a winning ticket:
Reveal three "5" symbols in any one row, column or diagonal, win PRIZE in PRIZE box. Reveal a Money Bag symbol in the 5X BOX, win 5 times that PRIZE.
Most people would think these two-sentence instructions are pretty darn simple and should be interpreted as scratch Game 5, reveal three fives in a row and win a prize. Scratch Game 5, reveal three fives in a row and a money bag, and well, you're rolling in five times the cash.
But while we may think this game is cut-and-dry, dozens of complaints have rolled in about Fun 5s, according to Dawn Nettles, who runs a watchdog Lotto website. She and dozens of other baffled ticket scratchers are taking those Fun 5 instructions to mean that any money bag symbol will nail them 5x the cash, row of 5s or not.
This leads people to believe they've won, but any attempt to redeem the "winning" tickets with money bags leads only to a serious case of disappointment, not cash. And these folks really, really think they're owed millions.
The lotto debacle has even prompted Nettles to pen a complaint letter to the Travis County District Attorney on behalf of the confused game scratchers. While we definitely applaud her gusto, the complaint itself is ridiculous. Take a look:
Nettles begins by saying, "The Texas Lottery could have pulled this game or simply halted sales when they first learned of the players perceptions. But they chose to continue selling the product. By making this decision, the Texas Lottery intentionally and maliciously decided they would simply insult the intelligence of players who called wanting their prize money."
Nettles also states that she "would like to collect [her] prize money. The Texas Lottery should honor the face value of the Fun 5's scratch tickets." She takes things further, even, claiming that the Texas Lottery is "committing a white collar crime and this must be stopped immediately."
The complaint is asking for the Lotto to fork over the cash people are owed by their interpretation of the rules. The odds of that happening -- much like the odds of making bank on those Fun 5 tickets -- are very, very bad. And yet, a number of angry players are even threatening to sue.
But suing the Texas Lottery isn't terribly simple. In fact, it's pretty much impossible. To sue the Texas Lottery Commission, you have to get permission from the legislature, which means you're up shit creek without a paddle, whatever your (very liberal and entirely incorrect) interpretation of the game rules is. And while several people have threatened, none have ever successfully done so.
So in this case, players are also threatening to sue retailers who sold them the ticket instead.
While we wholeheartedly believe that people should not be misled by unfair or deceptive practices, this whole thing is bordering on ridiculous. Even if you could sue the Texas Lottery, this is not a reason to do so.
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The lotto tickets quite obviously spell out how to win the game -- you have to get a row of 5s to make your money bag worth bags of money, folks -- and what on earth do the retailers, who are at the mercy of that darned sneaky Lotto Commission for their wares, have to do with this?
It's fairly obvious what the instructions mean in this case, but even if you still can't figure it out, here's a statement issued by the Texas Lottery Commission to clarify.
"The first sentence of the play instructions for Game 5 of the scratch-off game, Fun 5's, explains how to win the prize in the PRIZE box. The sentence reads, Reveal three "5" symbols in any one row, column or diagonal, win PRIZE in PRIZE box. The second sentence, Reveal a Money Bag symbol in the 5X BOX, win 5 times that PRIZE, explains how to multiply a prize won as described in the first sentence."
Whether or not the Lottery Commission will fork over dough for the tickets remains to be seen. For now, it seems that there is enough confusion over Fun 5s to warrant the game being pulled from the shelves -- apparently slowly. We were still able to track some down at a gas station near our Midtown office, and should we faux-win, well, we're certainly not quitting our day jobs till those bad boys are verified -- twice.