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Opening Arguments

The unluckiest man alive

The case of Charles Andrews brings up an interesting legal question. He says he came up with the winning lottery number but lost out on the $11.5 million prize because a convenience store refused to sell him a ticket with a few minutes left before the state-mandated 10:40 p.m. sales cutoff time. So he's suing the store for that amount and unspecified punitive damages.

Assuming Andrews is right about having the winning number -- his attorneys are seeking store video to back up his claim -- what about his legal standing? He says the store was legally obligated to sell him a ticket until the cutoff time and that not to do so amounted to a breach of contract and negligence, among other things. The store says it had no duty to sell him a ticket. The state seems to side with the store, but there are plenty of ambiguities to argue about:

A spokeswoman for the Hoosier Lottery said retailers can set their own hours for selling and redeeming lottery tickets as long as they cut off sales by 10:40 p.m.

"It's up to the individual retail location," Lucia Anderson said.

Josh Brown, another of Andrews' lawyers, said the law isn't explicit.

"There is no statute addressing the retail hours and whether they can set it or not set it," he said.

Brown noted that the contract between the lottery agency and retailers requires stores to display game and date lists, and said those likely would include hours of play.

"It's only fair to the citizens who spend their hard-earned money on the lottery that they know when the lottery is open," he said.

But it's also fair to say that anybody counting on the lottery as a retirement plan (Andrews says his goal is to make more money that what Social Security pays him) should at least have the sense to get in line earlier than a few minutes before the deadline. As a matter of law, I suppose it matters whether the store posts its official lottery selling hours or not, but I'm guessing the lack of a law specifying hours would work in the store's favor, not against it.


Tue, 04/27/2010 - 10:33am

I'm sympathetic, but anyone who thinks they're likely to make money on a state lottery simply doesn't understand arithmetic. The odds at any private casino are at least two orders of magnitude better.
State lotteries are a tax on the innumerate.
I'm a libertarian on gambling, but gamblers really ought to assess their odds before investing. All government sponsored lotteries are incredibly bad bets.