Behind the scenes of the Georgia Lottery - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Behind the scenes of the Georgia Lottery

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February 13, 2006

Atlanta - The Georgia Lottery had record-breaking sales last week - a whopping 80 million dollars! The lottery has been around for 13 years now and lottery officials say 86 percent of Georgians play. But is it a fair game? We took a behind-the-scenes look to find out.

Every day, two lottery employees and an auditor get things ready for the drawings. A computer will determine which machines, even which balls will be used.

Draw manager Bridgette Knight prepares to retrieve the machines that'll be used for the Cash 4 drawing.

"We have dual access where we actually go in where the draw specialist or the coordinator has access to one and the auditor has access to the other. That's the only way you can access it," she says.

"We've got security cameras in here that are on at all times."

The machines are watched 24 hours a day at WSB and Lottery headquarters down the street.

Across the studio, "This is where all the ball sets are stored," says Knight.

Even the rubber balls are sealed and under combination lock.

The electronic console that activates the machines is kept inside a cage secured with a chain and deadbolt lock.

Using a glove to make sure body oils don't get on the balls, the cases are carefully unsealed and the balls loaded into the machines.

"We load them up facing the camera."

Then the machines are tested and re-tested to make sure the same balls don't drop more than three times in a row.

With just one hour left before the drawing, the machines test properly. Now it's time to sign the security paperwork and wait.

"It takes us, as you have discovered, over two hours for every drawing, to just conduct a one minute drawing," says Ga. Lottery President Margaret DeFrancisco.

"These drawings are the basis of the integrity of our lottery. It is the foundation of that integrity. And so they have to be secure," she says.

At 6:58 PM, WSB-TV's Glenn Burns arrives and moments later the machines are turned on and the balls begin to bounce.

"They're entertaining and they're very exciting for the people holding the tickets. You're looking for failsafe, you're looking for reducing human error to the absolute tiniest fraction, to zero if you can get there," says DeFrancisco."

And on the day our cameras were there, they succeeded. Zero human error. No reason to think anyone could have influenced the outcome of this drawing.

"People have to know that when they're watching the drawings, that what they're watching is real and if they're holding that ticket and they think they might have a chance to win and that they have an equal chance of having their number, their ball selected," she says.

And that's a big payout for the 7,500 lottery retailers in Georgia and hope for the people who buy the tickets.

It also means HOPE for more than 900,000 college students who'll get scholarships.

That's a payout that can last a lifetime.

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