RICHMOND, Va. -- There is a dream common among regular lottery players: to wait until the jackpot reaches an astronomical sum and then to buy every possible number, guaranteeing a winner.
In Virginia this month, one investment group came tantalizingly close to cornering the market on all possible combinations of six numbers from 1 to 44.
State lottery officials say that the group bought 5 million of a
possible 7 million tickets, at $1 each, in a lottery with a $27 million jackpot. Only an 11:15 p.m. purchase deadline -- five minutes before the state drawing on Feb. 15 -- prevented the group from buying the other 2 million possible number combinations.
Officials found that only one winning ticket had been sold for the prize of $1.3 million a year for 20 years. And several clues point to an Australian investment group as the winner.
That prompted officials to worry about a repeat performance and a stoppage by regular players who would think they no longer had a chance to win.
On Monday, the state lottery board adopted a recommendation to Gov. L. Douglas Wilder that sales agents be required to give preference to customers waiting in line to buy the $1 tickets before filling orders from absentee buyers.
Officials cited the example of a store that put a sign on its lottery terminal saying it was out of order as an employee printed hundreds of tickets for the investors in the Feb. 15 lottery.
Banking officials in Richmond say the money for the bulk purchase came from Australia. No one has claimed the prize yet but a syndicate in Australia has notified its investors that it won an overseas jackpot, an Australian regulatory official said.
In Virginia's six-number lottery, or lotto, players pick six numbers from 1 to 44.