Blindfolded Children: Italian Lottery Scandal

Thursday October 18, 2018 05:26 am

The Lottery Lab Staff

The most costly lottery scandal of all time occurred between 1995 and 1999 and was perpetrated on the Italian lottery The lottery officials had no clue they were being scammed and lost an estimated $174 million over five years.

The reason authorities never suspected a scam was because the Italian lottery used blindfolded children to draw their numbers. The lottery would place silver balls in a spinning drum and let the children choose the balls for them. They thought that their method was impervious to any scam because they were not using a computer or lottery printing method, but little did they know!

Scammers would “temper” balls by heating or freezing specific balls before putting them into the spinning drum. Sometimes they would placemarks on the balls or apply extra gloss to some. The scammers would bribe the children and teach them to draw the tempered ball from the spinning drum. This was quite simple for the children. The scam lasted for so long everything seemed very natural and there was nothing suspicious.

Eventually, a pattern of the children selected to participate in the drawing was identified. Mostly, the children were in their early teens and related to tax officials  (it was believed that this would ensure the integrity of the lottery). But three tax inspectors were arrested as the masterminds behind the five-year-long scam and charged with criminal offense and extortion. In addition to the tax inspectors, six other people were arrested including three suspected of belong to a  criminal gang in the southern city of Bari. State news channels alleged that they started their racket by blackmailing authorities to continue the scam.

When the investigation started, surprisingly many locals started to win. This only attracted more attention from the investigators. Authorities seized about $1.2 Million in illegal winnings and requested permission to widen the scope of their investigation. When the scandal became public, lottery sales fell down sharply. To regain confidence the authorities switched to a computer system which was designed to draw random number automatically. Click here to read more here.