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Sure, MIT students are known for being smart – very smart – but this is pure genius! James Harvey, a typical MIT student looking for a senior project, cracked the code to Massachusetts State Lottery’s Cash WinFall game and won millions!
State Inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan recently filed a report confirming that a few gambling groups, including Harvey’s, had cracked the code to WinFall and had earned some major bucks. Harvey brilliantly discovered there was a “win-more-than-you-lose” system to WinFall, and it involved buying a lot of tickets.
According to the report, Harvey began trying his strategy in 2005 and was pretty successful. He then partnered with another student, Yuran Lu. The two started a betting company they named Random Strategies. The gambling group bought more than $40 million in tickets in all and won roughly $48 million over the course of seven years, according to the report and the Boston Globe.
Cash WinFall was a relatively obscure game at the time; players had to match six numbers on their ticket with randomly drawn numbers. But if no one matched all six and the unclaimed jackpot was around $2 million, the prize money was redistributed among ticket holders with fewer matching numbers. Statisticians calculated that players buying $100,000 worth of tickets were virtually guaranteed to win during those brief periods – good to know!
Lottery officials found out about the loophole in 2010, but didn't do anything about it because apparently the gamblers generated $16 million in revenue for the Massachusetts lottery. Guess it was a win-win situation for everyone.
It was only in the summer of 2011, after the Boston Globe started working on an article about the scheme, that Massachusetts lottery officials placed a $5,000 limit on the amount of tickets that retailers could sell per day.
Massachusetts state treasurer Steven Grossman halted the Cash WinFall game this year, according to the Boston Globe. "I feel it is important to essentially apologize to the public," Grossman said. "We're sorry some gained unfair advantage."
Official reports estimate that Random Strategies made about $3.5 million from its WinFall endeavors. Not too shabby and, since it was totally legal despite being a little sneaky, Harvey and his pals are free to keep the winnings. Man, why can’t I ever figure out how to win millions? Too bad this strategy really only works if you have hundreds of thousands to spend on lottery tix…but I’m glad to see Harvey is putting his top-notch mathematical skills to, um, practical use!