Couple ‘dudded’ out of $71m lotto
TWO, seven, eighteen, twenty-six, thirty-one, twelve.
On Saturday, October 14 last year, those were the winning numbers in the US MegaMillions lotto draw in which two lucky people split a jackpot of $US54.5 million ($71.2 million).
Perth man Peter Goddard, however, believes he should have been the third. He claims he picked the winning numbers before the draw and submitted a bet with Lottoland, the Gibraltar-based, Northern Territory-licensed online wagering company which allows punters to bet on the outcome of overseas lotteries.
"During the evening I checked the results via my iPhone and to my astonishment the numbers used in this wager had been drawn," the 53-year-old wrote in a complaint to the NT gaming regulator.
"When I returned home that evening I checked my email expecting a notification of my huge win and of course the dividends for a division-one prize."
Instead, he was "horrified" to discover an email advising his bet had actually been placed in the following week's draw. "He thought he'd won a share of $US55 million, but because of the timing they offloaded the bet to the following week," said Mr Goddard's wife Vanessa Thorton.
According to Ms Thornton's calculations - depending on whether they were entitled to the entire pot or a one-third share with the other two international winners - after Lottoland's 40 per cent lump sum and taxes, the couple should be entitled to either $8.4 million or $25.5 million.
"We're not talking small biccies," the 54-year-old said. "As far as I'm concerned it's a breach of contract." Ms Thornton said her husband had been betting on Lottoland "as a hobby", not spending "thousands or tens of thousands". "Five bucks or 10 bucks, I thought what the hell. I didn't discourage him, because if your luck comes in ..."
The couple have been waiting for a response from the gaming regulator since lodging a complaint in October. But while they are adamant they've been dudded, the story is a little more complicated than that.
That's because, while Mr Goddard says he selected the numbers and submitted the bet before the draw - which takes place at 11pm Friday US Eastern Time, 11am Saturday Perth time - he was suddenly called away from the computer and didn't actually get around to paying until 11:27am.
Lottoland, for its part, argues Mr Goddard actually tried to select the winning numbers after they had already been drawn in the US. He denies this, and claims his shopping cart and online account showed he had submitted his bet - with the winning numbers selected before they had been drawn - for that day.
To prove his point, Mr Goddard "recreated" the process a few days later, submitting numbers for a bet on a game at 9:51am, proceeding to the checkout page, but delaying payment until 11:13am after the draw had begun.
The payment was accepted and his activity statement showed a bet for that day's draw, but a subsequent email informed him that it had been moved to the following week.
"They say in their terms and conditions that if there are 'any system bugs' they won't honour the bet," said Ms Thorton. "They've given themselves an absolute out. But when the problem has been reported it's no longer a bug - it's a business decision."
Last week, the Turnbull government announced it was moving to ban so-called "synthetic" lotteries following a year-long lobbying campaign by the newsagents industry and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the legislation would kick in six months after passage to ensure businesses like Lottoland and Planet Lotto "have an appropriate transition period within which to cease their activity".
Ms Goddard said while she "all for" the ban, she was worried about what would happen to their dispute and others like it if the company was shut down. "If they're shut down, what happens to us?" she said.
"People like us will be hung out to dry, people who have done everything in good faith. If they close them down, then we're just told, 'Tough titties?' We are the little guy, we're average Australians, there's no way we could start a legal challenge against Lottoland."
A spokesman for Lottoland said, "Lottoland can confirm that it received a complaint from Mr Goddard in October last year. The complaint was passed on to the regulator.
"Our own internal investigation showed that unfortunately for Mr Goddard, he had placed his bet after the draw had closed and therefore, was not eligible to bet on that outcome.
"Lottoland understands the complaint has been investigated by the regulator and no further action taken. Since the beginning of 2016, Lottoland has paid out more than $29 million in winnings, including one $1.3 million winner last year."
A spokeswoman for the Northern Territory government, however, said the dispute was still under investigation. "As Lottoland is registered in the Northern Territory, any disputes are dealt with by Licensing NT," she said.
"This particular dispute is still under investigation and it is not appropriate for Licensing NT to comment on the specifics of the investigation. However, we expect to be able to advise the complainant of the outcome shortly.
"We anticipate that the proposed ban by the Commonwealth government will include transitional arrangements, including in relation to finalisation of existing disputes. The date for the introduction of any ban, and the terms of the proposed legislation, are matters for the Commonwealth."