Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code

ROTFLMAO ... you'd have thunk the software guys could've done a better job designing the tickets, but if you make things truly random, then you lose the predictability of winning and losing - a big downside if you're the lottery operator! So it's really not that easy at all. This just proves how difficult it is to rig the game without making it vulnerable to being cracked. In fact, while I'm no mathematician, I'd wager it can't be done. I'd further wager this same logic could be applied to any number of similar contests and games.

On the other hand, winning numbers in lottery games like Powerball are in fact truly random. That's because they're not generated by software, but by analog processes, such as an air blower and a tub of balls. Unlike scratch tickets, there's a pari-mutual payout on these games, and the jackpots are carefully crafted to insure a healthy margin for the operator. These analog processes are non-deterministic, unlike digital processes, which are more properly called pseudo-random number generators. As John von Neumann noted:

Anyone who attempts to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin.

Interestingly, the "quick pick" process used by games such as Powerball use PRNG's to pick the numbers for the ticket - they're not random, even though they are advertised as such. I wonder how long it'll be before some enterprising lawyer discovers this bit of bait and switch?

The apparent randomness of the scratch ticket was just a facade, a mathematical lie. And this meant that the lottery system might actually be solvable, just like those mining samples. At the time, I had no intention of cracking the tickets, he says. He was just curious about the algorithm that produced the numbers. Walking back from the gas station with the chips and coffee hed bought with his winnings, he turned the problem over in his mind. By the time he reached the office, he was confident that he knew how the software might work, how it could precisely control the number of winners while still appearing random. It wasnt that hard, Srivastava says. I do the same kind of math all day long.

(link) [Wired]

23:23 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link