ALC to Retire Lottery Balls on May 14

The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) offers numerous lottery-style games, but two of its most popular are Lotto 6/49 and LOTTO MAX. Both have used ball machines to pick the numbers.

Tradition plays a large role in many lotteries. Ping-pong-style balls have long been the way that lottery numbers are chosen. The balls can be easily weighed to ensure their equal weights. They can also be decorated with numbers that are easy to read. The ALC weighs the balls regularly as per gaming regulations. Independent auditors attend the videotaped drawings to ensure randomness.

Say goodbye to that tradition. As of May 14, 2019, the ALC will go the way of many other lottery operators around the world and retire the balls and the ball machine.

In its place, a computer will pick the numbers.

An Inevitable Decision

The announcement came just weeks ago. The ALC will retire the balls and use a computer program with a random number generator.

ALC Spokesperson Greg Weston explained to CBC: “They’re part of our history, but, you know, all good things come to an end, and times change, and this is all part of that process.”

The move seems primarily focused on bringing the lottery up to par with others and generally modernising the system. But Weston also pointed out that the computerised version of choosing numbers provides a better system of record-keeping and verifying the results.

The ALC aims to ensure the randomness and security process, according to Weston. Random number generators are used in live and online casinos and in many other industries around the world, and the software is verified to be random.

The biggest problem with the change is that people will miss the tradition, as well as the YouTube videos of the ball picks.

“We all remember watching them when we were younger; they’ve been around for many, many years,” he said. “But technology evolves, and the lottery is no different.”

One Week of Lottery Balls Left

On May 14, the LOTTO MAX main draw and MAXMILLIONS draw will use the new random number generator for the first time. On May 15, the Lotto 6/49 numbers will use it again. The ALC noted that third-party experts had tested the drawings software, and determined that the random number generator was unbiased and chose unpredictable numbers.

Decades of Lottery Balls History

Original lotteries that date back centuries used everything from stones to paper tickets to determine winning numbers.

For the last several decades, lotteries used machines to choose the balls indicating the winning numbers. The machines subsequently guaranteed randomness. Some machines even provided extra excitement for the players, who would watch the balls jostle or blow around in the machine before the winning ones were chosen.

Older machines, called gravity pick machines, consisted of a drum with a rotating arm on the outside. The manually rotated drum would then drop winning numbers out of a hole at the bottom or on the side. Some drums were solid. Meanwhile, others consisted of a wire or see-through material. The latter allowed players to watch the balls jostle in the drum. This type of machine is still used in some live bingo rooms and keno parlors.

An air mix container was the next step up after the gravity pick machines. The transparent container allowed people to see the lightweight balls, usually ping pong balls, blow around courtesy of a fan at the bottom. A suction tube eventually pulls the winning numbers through a tube and out to a waiting tray to display them. These machines were common in lotteries that televised or otherwise broadcast their lottery drawings live. That’s because they were more exciting to watch.

Computerised drawings have taken over in many lotteries. They are easily certifiable and have proven effective.

As casino slot machines have moved to tickets instead of coins, lotteries are moving from balls to computers. It is the way technology has changed society. But all that really matters is the ticket with the winning numbers in the end.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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