Illegal Scratch-off Lottery Ticket Sales

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Some Pennsylvania Lottery scratch-off tickets are illegal because you have absolutely no chance of winning the grand prize.

Chances of winning the $190 million jackpot for this Powerball ticket is one in 195,000,000.

That's still better odds than these Eagles or Amazing Eights scratch-off tickets with much smaller payouts. Chances of winning those grand prizes are zero.

From a parking lot in Monroe County to a street corner in Montrose to a convenience store in Minooka, people buy scratch-off lottery tickets hoping to beat the odds and win the grand prize.

"If I knew the grand prize was gone, why bother?" asked one player.

Newswatch 16 found five area businesses in four counties selling scratch- off tickets long after the grand prize was claimed.

Hidden cameras found a Scranton news stand, a Schuylkill County convenience store and a Susquehanna County supermarket vending machine all selling the one dollar Amazing Eights scratch-off ticket.

"I think that's just as bad as any type of illegal activity," said Nick DeGrote of Montrose.

We also found convenience stores in Exeter borough and in Mountain Top selling the $5 Eagles scratch-off ticket.

In the case of the Eagles and Amazing Eights, the last grand prize winners claimed their prizes in mid April.

The lottery commission ordered the remaining tickets pulled from shelves May 3.

Our hidden camera caught those tickets for sale between May 11 and May 18.

"It's like a ripoff because you're chasing something that's not there," said Leo Brown of Snydersville.

What happens when someone claims the last winning scratch-off ticket of a game? Right off the bat, the lottery commission moves into action, making sure it stops shipping the tickets in question.

Within two business days, the lottery commission tells retailers they have to take down all promotional displays for the games in question.

By the third business day, the lottery commission disables the ability of any retailer to put that ticket on the shelf once the last grand prize for that ticket has been claimed. Then the state gives retailers about two weeks to remove all tickets.

At Stange's Market in the Minooka section of Scranton, manager Barbara Wylam doesn't wait. "We try to do it as soon as possible," she said.

Stange's often sells $1,000 worth of scratch offs per day, and has never been cited for selling outdated tickets. Wylam said the store can't afford to lose customers.

"It would discourage them from coming in. I would say they would go somewhere else," Wylam added.

A lottery commission spokeswoman said the number of retailers selling outdated tickets is unacceptable and local agents will redouble efforts to tell businesses the rules.

Since our hidden cameras caught five of 30 business in violation, some players said retailers need to do better.

"It's stealing money from a customer. If you take their money from a ticket which they have no chance of winning, you stole their money," said Pat Rowe of Scranton.

When asked if he would you buy a ticket if he knew he couldn't win the grand prize, James Timlin of Scranton said, "That's a pretty easy question to answer. No, I wouldn't."

To minimize the chances of buying an outdated ticket, the Pennsylvania Lottery Commission's web page shows the number of grand prizes left for each instant game.

Meantime, one retailer said his business plans to tighten up quality control to lessen the chance of customers buying scratch-off tickets that cannot win the grand prize.