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7-7-7-7 costs Pa. Lottery bigtime

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04/02/2010 09:00 AM
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7-7-7-7 costs Pa. Lottery bigtime
[link to www.philly.com]

Talk about your lucky 7s.

Wednesday night, all 7s came up in Pennsylvania Lottery's Big 4 drawing, resulting in a whopping $7.77 million payout to 3,107 winning tickets.

Even more oddly, the news comes on a day when the Super 7 jackpot is $7.3 million, and Cash 5's top prize is $770,000.

The Big 4 payout was a staggering 1,573 percent of sales, according to lottery spokeswoman Kirstin Alvanitakis.

In other words: The lottery has to dish out about $7.2 million more than it took in for that drawing.

"We definitely lost money on the Big 4, that's for sure," Alvanitakis said. "But it's great for our players. People love to play quadruple numbers."

"It's definitely not an April Fools joke," she said.

A key factor is that Big 4's winning amounts are fixed - they're not a cut of cash collected. A 50-cent wager fetches $2,500, a $1 bet $5,000.

Also, 7-7-7-7 is extraordinarily popular. Most Big 4 drawings produce far fewer winners. Wednesday's midday drawing had 104 winners, and Tuesday evening's game was hit by 250 people, Alvanitakis said.

Luckily for the state, quadruples - popular with players - are rare. The last quadruple drawn was 2-2-2-2 on Sept. 2, 2008. All together, the 1,236 winners raked in $3.09 million.

Only two other times has 7-7-7-7 come up since Big 4 began in November 1980.

This big payout - 15 times the amount taken in - suggests questions about the soundness of Big 4's setup. This would seem to wipe out the revenue from more than two weeks of sales.

Such exceptions are not surprises, Alvanitakis said.

"We operate our numbers games with the expectation that when triples or quadruples hit we will lose money," she said. "Drawing triples and quadruples is great for the large number of our players who enjoy playing these number combinations."

Besides, there is a safeguard. "We have a sales cutoff of $10 million for Big 4 for any number combination - including quadruples - to ensure Lottery's liability does not exceed its ability to pay winners," she said.

Despite the big payout, the game still made money for March, she said.

On average, quadruples should happen every 1,000 drawings, since there are 10 such sequences (0-0-0-0, 1-1-1-1, etc.) out of the 10,000 possible combinations.
'This is the strangest life I've ever known'...James Douglas Morrison