COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina lottery officials say state law is the Grinch that won’t allow them to pay $35 million in prizes won by players when a Christmas Day glitch in a game briefly made everyone a winner.
The South Carolina Education Lottery Commission voted Wednesday to reimburse players only the $1 paid for Holiday Cash Add-A-Play tickets instead of the up to $500 they appeared to have won when machines started printing winner after winner for two hours on Dec. 25.
The game generated trees and other holiday symbols on a tic-tac-toe grid, paying up to $500 when someone got three trees in a line. Trees were printed in all nine slots on about 71,000 tickets before lottery officials realized the problem and shut the game down, according to an investigative report released by the lottery Wednesday.
Players demanded the lottery pay their winning prizes, but commissioners voted they were out of luck, citing a state law that says prizes resulting from a ticket printed in error must not be paid.
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Players who want their $1 back must mail their original ticket back to the lottery. They will be reimbursed for the postage too, lottery officials said in a news release.
At least two lawsuits have already been filed by players who want the winning prizes paid.
The game chose tickets out of computer generated groups, and the glitch happened when one group ran out of plays before it was supposed to. The game then defaulted to printing Christmas trees in all slots, according to the investigation.