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Massachusetts investigating high rate of repeat lottery winners

UPI News Service, 08/04/2017 

Officials in Massachusetts are investigating lottery winners that claim more than 1,000 winning tickets a year and are suspected of more than just extreme luck.

Massachusetts has more repeat lottery winners than any other state and state officials are questioning whether certain individuals and groups are compromising the integrity of the $5 billion state lottery.

State and lottery officials suspect the frequent winners may be "10 percenters" who charge a fee to claim winning tickets for people who may not want to claim the money themselves to avoid taxes, child support and other debts.

The Massachusetts lottery compiles a list of customers who have claimed at least 20 prize payments worth a total of $20,000 and shares that information with law enforcement as well as state and federal tax collectors.

Throughout the last six years Massachusetts has had more than 50 residents cash more than 200 lottery tickets worth at least $600 each, the most repeat winners in any state.

"I do not know if our oversight is lacking in comparison to other states," executive director of the Massachusetts Lottery Commission, Michael R. Sweeney said. "What I do know is our oversight needs to do better, can be better, and I guarantee you will be better on this issue."

Beginning in October, the lottery will institute a policy to freeze payments to customers who claim six or more prizes worth $1,000 or more within 12 months.

First time offenders will be barred from claiming additional prizes for 30 days, a second violation will incur a 180-day ban and any subsequent violations will result in a 365-day ban.

"We are going to be more proactive in this make sure things are on the up and up," Sweeney said. "This is the Lottery increasing our due diligence in protecting the games and the consumers."

Some repeat winners maintain that they are professional gamblers, but the distance between ticket purchases has left Sweeney wondering if there are "enough hours in the day" to buy that many tickets.

"It defies legal logic and it mandates a deeper drill-down, in my opinion, of all the appropriate agencies and state and federal organizations," he said.

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