Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Atlantic Lottery Winners

I find this story interesting and I'm planning to watch the CBC's Fifth Estate show scheduled for tonight.

A Yahoo news story (link here) got me thinking about how I would go about determining if the ticket sellers were actually stealing winning tickets. I wondered if there might be another possible explanation for the higher numbers of winners among the ticket seller group of the ticket buying population.

Now don't get me wrong...I'm all for "hang em high" if anyone is stealing and I have no affiliation with any ticket sellers, and I don't buy lottery tickets.

However, over the years I have often seen people, well educated technical people, jump to conclusions about the cause of a problem. Police departments are famous for having tunnel vision. This error has put a number of innocent people behind bars for most of their lives.

Statistics are a good tool, but one should have a theory to test. One should also brainstorm for other possible causes of any unexpected statistical results.

I have learned that you only get the right answer when you ask the right question(s). In this case, I wonder if anyone asked...

"Do people who work all day with lottery ticket machines buy more tickets than the rest of the ticket buying population?"

If so, then it may logically follow that the "ticket sellers group" would win more, often simply because they buy more tickets.

Another question..." Can/do ticket sellers steal tickets in some way before anyone buys them?" If so, this would also give them a greater chance of winning. Now stealing unsold tickets is still stealing... but the value of the theft is a lot less.

It may be that there is data available to answer these questions. But the questions should be asked. The Lottery Corp might do a study to answer these questions. The Fifth Estate could also do it.

Having said all that, it doesn't mean that I am incapable of being jealous of large lottery winners. Heck...if I had more money, I could be writing this post from a sandy beach somewhere in the South Pacific!


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