lottery loophole

A retired couple explain exactly how they used math skills and a lottery loophole to win $26 million in 9 years

A small-town Michigan couple sat down with “60 Minutes” in January to tell the unlikely story of how they used “basic arithmetic” to find a loophole in the lottery that helped them win $26 million over nearly a decade.

High-school sweethearts Jerry and Marge Selbee, 80 and 81 respectively, ran a convenience store in Evart until they sold it and retired in their 60s.

In 2003, Jerry made a run to their old store and saw a brochure for a new lottery game called Winfall. Jerry, who majored in math in college, told “60 Minutes” he realized within just minutes that he could almost guarantee making a profit.

He explained this was because the winnings rolled down every time the jackpot reached a cap of $5 million. Unlike lottery games like Mega Millions, where the jackpot keeps growing until someone matches every single number, with Winfall, if the jackpot reached $5 million and no one drew a ticket with all six winning numbers, people with tickets that had five, four, and three winning numbers could cash in.

While that may be hard for some to follow, Jerry said that it’s “just basic arithmetic” and that he thought others had figured it out too.

The first time he heard a roll-down was happening, he bought $3,600 in Winfall tickets and won $6,300. Then he bet $8,000 and won almost twice as much, he told “60 Minutes.”

The Selbees helped friends and family win too

Soon the Selbees were betting hundreds of thousands of dollars on Winfall.

They said they got so good at the game that they set up a corporation, G.S. Investment Strategies, and invited their friends and family to buy into the business for $500 apiece.

The group had grown to 25 members in 2005 when the state ended Winfall, citing lack of sales.

But soon after, the Selbees learned of a similar game in Massachusetts called “Cash WinFall.”

For the next six years, the Selbees said they would make the 14-hour drive to Massachusetts anytime a roll-down was happening, buying hundreds of thousands of tickets at two convenience stores. They would then rent a motel room and spend 10 hours a day sorting the tickets.

But in 2011, their game came to an end when The Boston Globe received a tip that certain Massachusetts locations were selling large numbers of Cash WinFall tickets. The Globe’s investigations team discovered that two groups were cashing in big on the game — the Selbees and a group of math majors at MIT.

The state launched an investigation but realized that what the two groups were doing was completely legal and that the state was actually making a lot of money through it. By then, the state lottery had decided to end the game anyway.

The Selbees said that over the nine years they played Winfall, their group won a total of $26 million and they made about $8 million in profit before taxes. They used it to renovate their house and help pay for the schooling of their six children, 14 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

They also optioned the rights for their life story to be turned into a movie.

Jerry and Marge Selbee won millions in the 2000s when they found a loophole in a Michigan state lottery game that boosted their chances of winning.

‘Lottery loophole’ which allows under-18s to gamble on brink of crackdown

EXCLUSIVE: A cross-party group of MPs has been campaigning to prevent the National Lottery “exploiting” vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds, with the government on the brink of a crackdown

  • 19:37, 11 NOV 2020

The Government is on the brink of cracking down on a “lottery loophole” which means under-18s are still able to gamble, the Mirror understands.

A cross-party group of MPs has been campaigning to prevent the National Lottery “exploiting” vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds.

They claim that allowing youngsters to buy lottery tickets, scratch cards and play online games acts as a gateway to much harder forms of gambling.

Teenagers across the country are in danger of losing up to £350 a week online and even bigger sums in shops which sell lottery scratch-cards.

Even though the law states that you have to be 18 or over to gamble there is a full array of National Lottery products available to youngsters.

Tory MP Richard Holden, among those calling for the age limit to be increased to 18, described the current system as “madness”.

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The Mirror understands that ministers are now planning to fast-track closing the loophole ahead of a wider review into the 2005 Gambling Act.

A Whitehall source told the Mirror: “We want to be absolutely clear that gambling is not appropriate for children and so we’ll raise the age restriction for the National Lottery draw and scratchcards to 18.”

Paul Pettigrew, 24, from Port of Glasgow, was 17 when he started gambling and watched his school friends spend their lunch money on scratch-cards from the age of 14.

“A couple of them who have ended up battling big gambling problems now had their first exposure to it with lottery scratch-cards from the newsagent,” he said.

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Mr Pettigrew, who runs GamTalk UK which educates young people on the dangers of gambling, told the Mirror: “Gambling shouldn’t be allowed under 18, it should be treated with the same caution as alcohol. My friends were first exposed at 14, by the time they reached their early 20s that’s years of gambling”.

Mr Holden, the MP for North West Durham, said: “Allowing people as young as 16 to lose hundreds of pounds a week in online gambling, and unlimited sums on scratch cards, is, to put it bluntly, madness.

“The Lottery doesn’t even know how many 16 and 17-year-olds are gambling via its products and it’s really concerning that young people across the country are losing potentially hundreds of pounds a week and the lottery isn’t even aware of the scale of the problem.

“I want to see sensible measures implemented that protect vulnerable under-18s from what is potentially serious financial harm and addiction as a result of gambling and I hope that the Government acts soon on this matter alongside launching the broader Gambling Act review.”

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chair of the APPG on gambling, added: “Children under 18 should not be allowed to gamble, the Government must close this loophole and not delay action any longer.

“The Lottery’s remit is to make money for good causes. They should not be profiting from addictive online gambling games or allowing children to gamble on these.

“We are the only country in the world that allows under-18s to gamble. Be it lottery, slots or even loot boxes – it has to stop now”.

Campaigner Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of Clean Up Gambling, said: “Britain is the only country in the world that allows children to gamble.

“The loophole that lets under-18s buy lottery tickets has been exploited to peddle rapid instant win games to children, which act as a gateway to harder forms of gambling. “These games have more in common with online casinos than lotteries. The Government should increase the minimum age to 18 as soon as possible.”

A spokesman for Camelot, which runs the National Lottery, said: “The minimum age of 16 years to play the National Lottery was set by the government back in 1994, so it is incorrect to state that the National Lottery is exploiting a ‘loophole’ in allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to play.

“Our operating licence requires us to sell National Lottery products to anyone who is eligible and is aged 16 years or over – and we can’t unilaterally change this.

“So, although there is not currently evidence of a significant risk of harm to 16 and 17-year-olds from playing, we believe that the Government’s review is appropriate. “And, if the decision is taken to raise the age, we’ll fully support that and do everything in our power to bring it in as quickly as possible”.

EXCLUSIVE: A cross-party group of MPs has been campaigning to prevent the National Lottery “exploiting” vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds, with the government on the brink of a crackdown ]]>