Start-up tests odds on lotto tickets

Start-up tests odds on lotto tickets

By: Rebecca Wu

Issue date: 8/27/07 Section: News

Last update: 8/27/07 at 7:58 AM EST

Cassady" from California is training a chicken to scratch lottery
tickets while "Dave The Intern" has images of fire and other special
effects on his show, "Scratching Extraordinaire."

These are just
two people who have posted videos of themselves scratching instant-win
lottery tickets, and the best part about it is that they don’t even
have to spend any of their own money to buy the tickets.

A team
of four current and former Duke students created a start-up company
this summer and their website launched July 14.

project examines how lotteries really work. The company gives people
money from advertising revenue to buy lottery tickets and requires
scratchers to send in live footage of their shows, as they scratch the

"A lot of people really enjoy this and we have a lot of
loyal viewers and people in the chat room online for several hours each
day," said sophomore Andrew First, who works on the programming and
engineering aspects of the company.

Anyone can do a show, said
junior Nick Alexander, chief of marketing and sales and a Chronicle
columnist. People just have to send in an audition and if the hosts are
entertaining, they are given a time slot and money for tickets.
Scratchers can keep their winnings, but many choose to donate them to
charities, said Breck Yunits, Trinity ’07, president of

the very beginning, people would just scratch tickets and they didn’t
need to talk, Alexander said. now has more TV-style shows
and one of the first shows Alexander did-with Julius Degesys, Pratt ’05
and a graduate student at Harvard University, who helped start the
company-was similar to a game show. They gathered viewers in a chat
room and asked them trivia questions. Whoever answered correctly would
choose a charity to which to donate the winnings.

Yunits said he came up with the idea to start when North Carolina debuted its own lottery last spring.

friends bought two tickets and I wondered if anyone would hit the
jackpot and how we could ever see that," he said. "The chances of
actually witnessing something like that is really small."

to 50 people have scratched tickets and it seems that everyone who
watches the shows will never play the lottery again, Alexander said.

"Once you see that many tickets get scratched, you see how hard it is to win anything," he added.

to statistics posted on, $14,277 have been spent on buying
tickets while scratchers have won a total of $10,562 as of Sunday, with
a winning percentage of 25.95 percent.

Although Yunits and
Alexander said they did not have enough data to be sure, they noticed
that for the Massachusetts $800 Million Spectacular ticket, winning
tickets tended to come in streaks.

"We didn’t have enough
tickets to make it statistically conclusive, but it seemed that if you
hit a big one, it was likely you would win some smaller ones pretty
soon as well, and if you won a streak of smaller ones, you would soon
win a big one," Alexander said. "The lottery says that it is completely
random, but that may be a marketing strategy. If someone plays the
lottery for the first time and they win three times in a row, they are
more likely to get hooked."

First said he did not think the lottery was rigged, but that there was not enough data to make any conclusions yet.


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