Pine Township couple serve as witnesses for Pennsylvania Lottery
Many people take the nightly Pennsylvania Lottery drawing for granted. Really, all you have to do is turn on your television and watch.
Two people — one a witness, the other a Lottery official — stand behind several machines with numbered balls floating inside. The numbers pop up and are called out, beginning with the wild ball digit to the Match 6.
And then all the winning numerals are displayed on the screen. (This can also be viewed on the lottery’s website.)
But, behind the scenes, there’s more that goes into the process than what is shown on screen, as Steve and Kathy Mihaly of Pine Township saw firsthand in April.
The couple served as witnesses for the lottery drawing and saw how the drawings come together.
‘It was very impressive,” Kathy Mihaly said. “All the things they go through to do this. There is so much going on behind the scenes. I am glad I did it. It was fun.”
The Mihalys had to travel to Harrisburg to watch it all happen. That’s because a major scandal in 1980 caused the live drawings to be moved from WTAE-TV studios in Pittsburgh to WHP-TV in Harrisburg.
The “666” Pennsylvania Lottery’s Daily Number debacle occurred on April 24, 1980. The numbers were rigged by Nick Perry, a Pittsburgh broadcast pioneer and Edward Plevel, a lottery official. Both were convicted of a variety of charges.
Then-Gov. Dick Thornburgh ordered the drawing to be held at WHP-TV in Harrisburg as part of a beefed-up security effort. The added measures included a security chief as well as background checks of key personnel.
The first drawing in Harrisburg was June 29, 1981 — 38 years ago Saturday.
The lottery, whose proceeds benefit seniors, started using seniors as a security measure in the late 1970s. Normally, witnesses participate no more than once every six months.
The Mihalys arrived two hours before the April show.
“It does give you a chance to relax if you might be nervous,” Steve Mihaly said.
One night the person will directly participate in the selection of the drawing machines and ball sets for that evening’s drawings. They will also observe pre-drawing and post-drawing tests. On the other night, they will appear on camera as the witness for the live, televised drawing show.
Witnesses are responsible for providing their own transportation and, if necessary, lodging. They serve an important role because they help to ensure the integrity and security of drawings, said Ewa Dworakowski, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Lottery.
“The Pennsylvania Lottery utilizes state-of-the-art physical and logical controls combined with industry best practices to ensure a random, fair drawing,” Dworakowski said.
Dworakowski said there are some controls that are not visible during the drawings.
Steve Mihaly said he heard about this opportunity from someone he knew from his prior job at H.J. Heinz. The couple made a mini-vacation out of it with visits to antique shops and flea markets in the area and a trip to Lancaster.
He said they were told to avoid wearing anything with a company logo or design or a social or political message. Some of their friends had a lottery drawing watch party.
“It is such a unique experience,” he said.
The lottery generates billions of dollars for senior citizen programs.
— Pennsylvania Lottery (@PALottery) June 19, 2019
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .