Nick Perry Pennsylvania Lottery Scandal

nick perry 666If you lived in Pennsylvania in 1980, and were old enough to read a newspaper, I’m pretty certain you’ll know all about the Nick Perry lottery scandal.

But for those of us who don’t know, and for those who love a good conspiracy story – here’s the one about the Pennsylvania lottery scandal.

Nick Perry & the Pennsylvania Lottery

In 1980, the Pennsylvania lottery ran a game called Daily Number. It’s still going today, and is your classic Pick 3 lottery game.

Back then the WTAE TV channel broadcast the daily draw, and the host was one Nick Perry.

Nick was a local, born in Pittsburgh in 1916. He’d previously delivered the news on WTAE, but took over as host of the daily lottery show in 1977.

The Plot to Cheat The Lottery

Nick Perry is always quoted as the ring leader of the plot, but it’s quite possible his partners in crime were equally responsible for the conspiracy. They were very quick to point the finger for lighter sentencing as we’ll see later.

The plot was initially conceived via a discussion between Nick and the Maragos brothers – two guys he already knew and worked with in a separate vending machine business.

Once the idea was on the table, more recruits were needed to pull off the plan.

Art Director at the station, Joseph Bock, was next recruited for his particular expertise.

The idea was to switch out the regular lottery balls for the draw, and substitute them for a set of specially weighted balls that would greatly bias the result.

Bock was left to come up with the final design, which involved creating a fake set of balls using a heavy latex based paint on the balls they didn’t want to come out of the machine. The balls bounced around and were then sucked out of the top of the machine, hence the need to weight those that were not wanted.

The group decided they would weight all numbers but the 4’s and 6’s, leaving only 8 possible combinations that should be able to make it out of the machine.

Making The Switch

Obviously the lottery draw had some security in place. Perry couldn’t just roll up to the studio and swap the balls over with nobody noticing.

So more recruits were required.

A stagehand for the TV company was enlisted to make the switch. With a lottery official also added to the payroll to ensure he would leave his post for a few moments at the appropriate time.

It worked. The swich was made and the modified balls were ready to be loaded into the machine.

The Moment Of Truth

On Thursday evening, the 24th April 1980, the Pennsylvania Lottery drew the numbers 666 on the Daily Number.

Bock’s set of fake balls had done their job, and one of the gangs 8 wanted results had been drawn.

They were rich…

For about 5 minutes.

The Lottery Scandal Revealed

Nick Perry and his partners had been careful to remove the dodgy balls and destroy them right after the draw.

But the gang had been far less clever about how they had bought their tickets for the game.

The Pennsylvania Lottery had a record breaking $3.5 Million in winnings on their hands. Which alone did not mean any wrongdoing.

What really triggered the alarm bells though was when a very small group of people, with a large number of winning tickets, came forward to claim most of the prize money!

Naturally, an investigation was launched.

And as the lottery company started to check the locations where the tickets had been bought in large numbers, suspicions grew.

One cigar store was happy to sell over $1,000 of tickets in one hit to the group.

It wasn’t long before the investigation connected the Maragos brothers to Nick Perry. They had actually phoned his personal line at the studio whilst waiting for large numbers of lottery tickets to be printed at a bar.

All the tickets they bought were for the same set of 8 combinations.

It Was Nick Perry!

The gang quickly crumbled under interview, and happily pointed the finger at Nick Perry as the ring leader.

All of the gang members were brought to trial.

But the Maragos brothers avoided being sent to prison by helping to convict Nick Perry, and the lottery official. The Maragos brothers were more than happy to state that Nick came to them with the whole idea. And stuck the knife in by saying that he wanted to fix the result every 6 months or so.

They got away with 5 years probation and fairly modest fines.

Nick however was given 7 years detention for his part in the scandal. He died in 2003, but always maintained he was innocent of the whole scandal.

Apparently some do still refer to the result 666 as a Nick Perry though.

The lottery official who left his post was given a 2 year sentence. Whilst the others were awarded lesser terms for guilty pleas.

Pennsylvania Cleans Up

A lottery scandal on this scale obviously severely hurts the credibility of any lottery game.

So Pennsylvania were quick to make changes. Security procedures were greatly increased – a move closely watched and subsequently followed by other lottery companies. And the lottery draw was taken away from WTAE and given to another channel, WHP.

And in the 32 years since the Pennsylvania lottery scandal hit the headlines, there hasn’t been a single report of a lottery being rigged.

Were those increased security procedures therefore enough?

Or is it possible to do a better job of cheating the lottery, and rig the draw without getting caught?

What do you think?

UPDATE: They made a movie out of it! I haven’t seen it yet, but the movie ‘Lucky Numbers’ was based on this story (names were changed). It starred John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow. You can find it here on Amazon (or here on Instant Video). Anyone seen it?

37 Comments so far ↓

  • Joyce

    Neat story, I’d never heard this before and wondered if it was possible that anyone could really manage to cheat the lottery.

    I don’t think it would be possible now though, once bitten twice shy and all that. The security must be really tough these days.

  • James

    I think the lottery is rigged altogether.

    • LG

      Hey James,

      Aw, that’s just because you haven’t won yet 😉

      But there’s no real point in any lottery being ‘rigged’ – all lottery companies take their costs and profit out before calculating the prizes, so they make plenty of money whatever happens.

  • Robert

    I think it can since most of the drawings are no longer broadcast live and the draw is on an automated machine. Why else would they not want people to see the draws.

  • Nancy

    I do not think people in New Zealand are very happy people right now, as the numbers have been really stinky lately.

    Draw 1296 has the same 4 numbers drawn from Draw 1295 (expected to happen every 456 draws) Draw 1297 has 3 same last digit AND 2 same last digit numbers – Draw 1297 is also ALL odd numbers (Expected to happen once every 99 draws) also the combination of the odd numbers had same last digits & 2 same last digits gives 5760 possible combinations. This means it should happen once every 666 draws. on top of all this 5 coldest numbers struggle to appear for 3 draws! (That is very unusual).

    On top of the above, can you believe it? all low numbers-only expected once in 99 draws came in, that is 3 weeks in a row. I wonder if anyone is still playing, I think I am going to play slot machines.

    • LG

      But none of those things would be due to any kind of fixing the draw though, right?

      In fact, they are all a perfectly normal part of a properly random draw.

      Think of it this way – if it was NOT possible for any of those things to happen, would that lottery draw be properly random? For something to really be random, everything must be possible, even if it’s very unlikely.

      [More about this in these posts about repeat lottery numbers and the same lottery numbers in consecutive draws]

      Cold numbers are a misleading concept though. They are only cold because they haven’t been drawn for a while. But that doesn’t make them any less likely to appear compared to any other ball.

      If you rolled a dice fifty times, and didn’t get a 6 at all – does that make you more or less likely to get a 6 next roll? There are still six sides to the dice, so the odds haven’t changed. See what I mean?

  • RJ

    All the Lotteries are rigged. They give out the money but they pick and choose who to give it to. For instance, the MegaMillions is purposely driven up so that more people will play when the jackpot reaches above $200,000,000. The way to tell, the Lottery system is shut down 30-min before the drawing time. That way, they can search the system for the numbers that have not been played. Then, the Lottery people get out the set of balls so they can manipulate the numbers that have not been played to win.

    The Lottery isn’t crooked per se, but they purposely drive-up the number of plays so the Lottery dept makes more money.

    My father once worked with the Cuban Bolita Lottery. The number was called every Sat morning in Havana. The priest involved would put the winning ball in the freezer overnight. On Sat he would tell the Alter Boy to search for the cold ball and pull it out. That way, the Priest could play the winning number and receive the money for the Cathoic Church–and him.

  • LG

    So has anyone seen the ‘Lucky Numbers’ movie? It was (loosely?) based on the Nick Perry lottery scandal. It seems a really divisive movie from what I’ve read so far – people love it or pretty much hate it. Must remember to rent it…

  • Zaneta

    The lottery system is mere fantasy designed to be addictive once you are used to it.

    Save the money up and you would be suprised on ‘your self made Jackpot’ at the end of 5 years.

    Mathematically, if you spend £20 per week on lotteries, in a year you loss £960 and in 5 years it would be £4800 if you didn’t win.

    The lottery sytem is computerized and operator has 100% control over it. What you see on TV is mere make belief-show.

    I wouldn’t stop anyone from playing, but just wake up from your fantasy because your chance of winning a life transforming jackpot is very infinitesimally small and my submission is lottery tickets you’ve brought is a waste of limited resource (money) unless its a winning one.

    If any one claims to know the secret of winning a jackpot, kindly ask how many jackpots has he or she won with the propounded theorem. The theories are just “blatant lies” aimed at feeding your addictive curiosity.

    Camelot is only the winner in the UK National Lottery and the name has suggested they are in control; CAME-LOT. The lots of money would first come into their account before, decision on sharing strategies is made.

    Keep dreaming and you have to be in it, to win it are the common slogans to keep you in it.

    Please play responsibly, if you must play.

    • LG

      Hi Zaneta

      That’s a bit of a confused message. I’m not sure why you’re on a lottery site if you don’t like the lottery, and think it’s all fixed..?

      You mentioned £’s and Camelot, so I guess you’re in the UK – in which case the draw isn’t computerised. It’s a traditional balls from a tumbler draw, broadcast live by the BBC. (Why would it be a ‘make-believe’ show? That bit didn’t make sense)

      Yes, the chances are you will lose. It is a lottery after all. Which is why I remind people to enjoy playing.

      Most of us enjoy the whole process of playing, making it very good value entertainment. If you look at it that way, even when you don’t win you haven’t lost! Same way you haven’t lost when you spend 10 times as much on a movie ticket.

  • Nick

    I would like to how to run a lottery on a very tight budget, what strategies to use to build a new lottery and what is the best lottery system. Please any advice or eBooks on running a lottery business would be appreciated. Regards, Nick

    • LG

      Hi Nick

      So you want to run a lottery, and you want a system for winning it..? Not sure that makes sense, Nick..?

      Lotteries are heavily regulated, so need licensing from the Government in most countries. So your first step is either legal advice or the relevant Government department. I can’t see how it could be done on a tight budget though.

  • Chartyise

    I always hit the number by playing any thing that comes to mind way more better luck than studying and reading lottery secret books and strategy guides

  • Bob

    Don’t remember the story (except for reading it here before). Never saw the movie either. I was living in Chicago, Illinois at the time & playing pick -3 frequently. Never won much.

    I can’t imagine how the winnings ended up at $3.5M! Unless those guys in on the fix bought 7,000 winning tickets or there was some kind of rollover. Most pick-3 games here pay $500 for an exact match on a $1 bet.

    I always wondered about how minuscule variances in ball weight or shape might affect trends in their selection. Most lotteries using them are conscious of this as well. I’m sure they monitor dimensions religiously & change ball sets frequently to maximize randomness.

    Fun story from the past, nonetheless!

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