Gov. Tom Corbett's mission to privatize Pennsylvania's state lottery system may have been temporarily stalled by Attorney General Kathleen Kane, but an appeal could be on the way by next week. Corbett's administration has until March 16 to appeal Kane's decision.
According to the Lottery's official website, the Pennsylvania Lottery funded more than $1 billion for programs for senior citizens last year alone. But if Corbett's privatization plan comes to fruition and a foreign management company takes control, it could change the Pennsylvania lottery game forever.
While it's premature to sing "The Way We Were" regarding Pennsylvania's lottery system, here's a look back at five memorable Pennsylvania Lottery moments.
* Eight years after the Lottery's creation, Pennsylvania's biggest lottery scandal came on April 24, 1980, when the combination "666" was drawn in the Daily Number game and a state lottery official and TV broadcaster were accused of weighting balls prior to the drawing. But there have been other questionable drawings over the years. In 2002 a cracked ball during the Cash 5 drawing resulted in a re-draw, and in 2007 a broken "36" ball cost the lottery $411,216 after a Match 6 drawing was conducted -- and paid out twice. And in May 2007, Lottery officials had to go to the tape to determine the third digit in the Daily Number drawing after the third ball drawn fell back into the mixing chamber.
* In 1997, the Pennsylvania Lottery's 25th anniversary was celebrated with a TV game show hosted by a TV icon. "American Bandstand" legend and game show host extraordinaire Dick Clark hosted the show, which doled out more than $400,000 in prize money within 30 minutes. Miss Pennsylvania GiGi Gordon was Clark's co-host.
* In 2004, Gus the Groundhog, the Lottery's animatronic instant games mascot, made his TV commercial debut, but eight years later he was sent back to his burrow. According to CBS Philly, in Febuary 2012 Lottery Director Todd Rucci announced, "The groundhog is going to be moving away," citing the high cost of television ads as the reason for the groundhog's early retirement. (The robotic rodent was featured in more than 59 commercials.) Rep. Joe Markosek joked, "Well, the governor said he was going to lay off state workers." You can see Gus in action here.
* One of Pennsylvania's most notorious Lottery stories occurred when William "Bud" Post III won $16.2 million in 1988, and went on to lose it all in a series of bad investments and lawsuits. The brother of the Erie, Pa., lottery winner was charged with hiring a hit man to kill him, and Post was later convicted of assault for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector. According to the Los Angeles Times, Post funded his big win when he pawned a ring for $40 and bought 40 Pennsylvania lottery tickets, but within a year after his windfall he was bankrupt.
* In 2005, the Lottery debuted the Millionaire Raffle game, touting it as the system's "best odds of winning $1 million." With drawings only twice a year, the 500,000-ticket raffle-style game always sells out and is one of the Lottery's most anticipated games, offering players a 1 in 125,000 chance of winning $1 million. According to the Lottery site's Winner's Circle, recent winners include a retired technology worker from Washington County who won $1 million on one of his raffle tickets and another $100 on a second ticket. The next Millionaire Raffle is slated for July.
Victoria Leigh Miller is a freelance writer and lifelong Pennsylvania resident.
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