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Mathematician says audit of PCSO lotto, not statistics, can check for cheating

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Mathematician says audit of PCSO lotto, not statistics, can check for cheating

LOTTO QUEUE. Bettors queue at a lotto betting station in Baguio City to take chance in winning the P350-million jackpot at stake in the 6/55 draw on July 6, 2022.

Mau Victa/Rappler

Mathematician Guido David says the chances of having successive lotto draws being won is a 'rare occurrence,' but it's an audit that will determine whether there are 'anomalies'

MANILA, Philippines – The odds of the PCSO lotto games being won successively in less than a month are “rare,” but the question of whether there was cheating can be determined not by statistics but by an audit of the lottery system, according to a mathematician of the state university. 

Guido David, who became known in the Philippines for his work with OCTA Research during the pandemic, weighed in on Friday, January 26, on the PCSO lotto controversy.

In an interview with DWPM Radyo 630, David, a professor at the UP Institute of Mathematics, said the chances of winning in the 6/42 is one in 5 million; one in 14 million in 6/49; and one in 29 million in 6/55. 

When asked on the chances of the lotto games being won successively in less than a month, like what happened in PCSO’s “Handog Pakabog” promo draws, David replied: 

“Nagbigay ako ng scenario na a few hundred thousand ang pumupusta kada bola. So, every bola, ang probability na may tatama is nasa 2% or less than 2%. Pero pag sunod-sunod yan, kunyari, dalawang bola, it’s 2% x 2% so 0.04%, so, paliit ng paliit. Kunyari, sampung sunod-sunod, napakaliiit ng probability nun. Hindi imposible, napakaliit. It’s a rare occurence pero maliit yung probability.”

(I assumed a scenario of a few hundred thousand betting in every draw. So, every draw, the probability of winning is 2% or less than 2%. But if it’s in succession, for example, if two draws, it’s 2% times 2% so 0.04%, so, it gets smaller and smaller. For example, ten in succession, the probability of that is very small. It’s not impossible, but very small. It’s a rare occurrence but the probability is small.) 

He also qualified that the chances of the lotto game being won depends on how many people bet. For instance, in the 6/42, there’s a higher chance that someone will win if 5 million people bet than if only a few people bet. 

None of big winners in PCSO’s Christmas, New Year lotto games bet on all combinations, says GM

None of big winners in PCSO’s Christmas, New Year lotto games bet on all combinations, says GM

When asked whether he agreed with Senator Koko Pimentel’s observation that it was an “anomaly,” David said what happened in PCSO’s recent promo draws “raises eybrows” due to its rarity but that “statistics will never prove” that there was cheating. 

“So kailangan i-audit, if ever, they should look at the process. Were the draws fair?…Kung gusto nilang iinvestigate, I guess, may statistical basis, kunyari medyo rare na occurrence,” he added. “Yung pag audit, dun nila malalaman, hindi sa numbers.:

(So, there’s a need for an audit, if ever, they should look at the process. Were the draws fair?…If they want to investigate, I guess, there’s statistical basis [for it], for example, the occurrence here is rare. They’ll find out in the audit, not in the numbers.)

David agreed with PCSO General Manager Mel Robles that PCSO’s lottery is a “game of chance.” 

David teaches numerical analysis, game theory, mathematical biology, and machine learning in UP Diliman. He is member of OCTA Research and of the academic group Mathematical Finance and Acturial Science. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Guido provided daily analyses of the country’s positivity rate, testing statistics, and other important pandemic-related data. 

In the Senate Games and Amusement hearing last Thursday, January 25, committee chair Raffy Tulfo asked the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (DICT-CICC) to look into the PCSO controversy. 

Drexx Laggui, a technical consultant of the DICT-CICC, said they will have to check the PCSO’s system, such as how it creates logs, and other processes.

He said the DICT-CICC can also look into PCSO’s ISO documents and also compare the PCSO’s system with the gaming rules in Nevada, USA. PCSO officials said its lotto system is ISO-certified.

“We can employ digital forensics,” Laggui said. 

Mathematician says audit of PCSO lotto, not statistics, can check for cheating

In a press release last January 19, the PCSO said it “churned out multi-millionaires one after the other to the delight of millions of Filipino bettors,” after the PCSO board augmented the jackpot draws for its “Handog Pakabog” Christmas and New Year draws.

The PCSO raised on December 16, 2023 the minimum guaranteed jackpot for the Grand Lotto 6/55, Ultra Lotto 6/58, Super Lotto 6/49 by P500 million each, and P100 million each for Lotto 6/42 and MegaLotto 6/45 as part of its Christmas and New Year draws.

On December 29, 2023, a lone bettor won P571 million in the Ultra Lotto 6/58, the biggest jackpot in 2023.

On January 16, 2024, a bettor won P640 million with the combination 26-33-14-48-06-42 in the Super Lotto 6/49 draw.

On January 17, another lone bettor won P698 million in the Grand Lotto 6/55 with the correct combination of 24-50-52-09-51-03 through PCSO’s new e-Lotto platform.

Three bettors, meantime, won in the Lotto 6/42 jackpot on January 2 with a prize of P108 million. 

Two people split the Megalotto 6/45 jackpot of P121 million on January 8.

Pimentel said during the Senate hearing that based on the history of PCSO’s lotto draws, it usually took months before lotto games with a jackpot prize of P500 million or more were won, but in this recent series of draws, which he described as an “anomaly,” all the games with big prizes produced winners in less than month. 

“In less than one month, limang laro ang tinamaan…itong nangyari ng December is really an anomaly. Hindi lang one [lotto] game, limang games,” he said. (In less than one month, 5 games were won…what happened this December is really an anomaly.)

Robles, however, told the committee that no cheating is being done. “We would like to assure you that you can never, never manipulate it, kaya nga po (that’s why) allowed kami mag-bet (even PCSO personnel can bet), Mr. Chair. Even I can bet because it’s beyond me.” – Rappler.com 

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.