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Wednesday
Aug032011

Massachusetts Lottery Closes Loophole after Big Wins

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(BRAINTREE, Mass.) -- It was great while it lasted, for the few who knew the trick and had the money to take advantage of it.

A lottery game in Massachusetts, known as Cash WinFall, had a potentially lucrative quirk, provided you knew about it. Every three months or so, if the WinFall jackpot exceeded $2 million but nobody picked all six of the randomly-chosen winning numbers, the money in the jackpot pool would go to people who picked only four or five correct numbers.

The Massachusetts Lottery said the odds of picking all six numbers were 1 in 9,366,819. But during so-called "rolldown weeks," someone who picked five numbers could win as much as $135,000 -- and the odds of success swung down to a much easier to beat 1 in 39,000.

If you bought enough tickets, the odds of making a profit could be very high, said a state official who asked not to be quoted by name.

The Lottery Commission said a Michigan couple, Gerald and Marjorie Selbee, both 73, periodically came to western Massachusetts to buy tickets in bulk, often by the hundreds of thousands. They even got themselves temporary jobs at local stores -- he in the town of South Deerfield, she in nearby Sunderland -- so that they could systematically sell themselves tickets without troubling store clerks.

It would be in a store's interest to have them, said officials; a store gets a 5 percent commission on every ticket sold, and a 1 percent bonus if it sells a winning ticket.

Messages left for the Selbees in Michigan and Massachusetts were not immediately returned. Apparently they ran a profit. Since July 1, the Lottery Commission says the company they set up for tax purposes "made 187 prize claims totaling $206,649." That did not include lottery tickets that won them amounts of $600 or less.

According to the Lottery Commission, the WinFall game has already been fading in popularity, and will be ended next year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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