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666 an infamous mark of state lottery fix in 1980

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By Tim Puko
Sunday, April 27, 2008

It took awhile before April 24, 1980, became recognized as a historic date.

The 6 million Pennsylvanians watching the Pennsylvania Lottery's Daily Number drawing that night never knew that the fix was in for the $3.5 million jackpot. The winning combination of 6-6-6 was rigged by Nick Perry, a Pittsburgh broadcast pioneer, and Edward Plevel, a lottery official.

Rumors of a fix quickly surfaced. By June, state officials moved the lottery telecast out of Pittsburgh, and within a year Perry and several others were convicted. Pennsylvania's is the only known U.S. state lottery-fixing scandal.

The fix caused big change for lotteries, which stopped using Ping-Pong balls to draw numbers for big jackpot games because they were vulnerable to tampering, said Charles Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which oversees Powerball.

The lottery balls and machines had been kept in a room at WTAE studios. The room was locked with two keys. Perry had one key and Plevel had the other. The pair experimented with baby powder, talcum powder, sugar and Vaseline before injecting most of the balls with white latex paint.

They weighted all the balls except those numbered 4 and 6, so only those numbers were light enough to be picked by the machines. Then, with several partners, they bet heavily on combinations of those two numbers.

"Every lottery that starts up hears that story," said Strutt.

"We work with people who have a great imagination of how to cheat," he added. "We work to make sure we can come up with the ideas before anyone else does."

Two months after the fix, state officials moved the broadcasts to Harrisburg, where they remain.

Three security officials, a certified public accountant, another accountant and two senior citizen witnesses attend each drawing to ensure fairness, said Elizabeth Brassell, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Revenue, which oversees the lottery.

"It would be virtually impossible" to rig the numbers now, Brassell said.

Perry had been a signature voice for WTAE. After his 1981 conviction, he spent two years in prison and another year in a half-way house. He briefly returned to television and died from Parkinson's disease at age 86 in 2003.

Additional Information:

Pitt fact

The Pennsylvania Lottery expects to spend $900,000 to broadcast lottery drawings this year. What is its security budget?

A) $1.3 million

B) $523,000

C) $622,000

D) $4.1 million

Answer: C

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