An inconvenient glitch made what seemed like a Christmas miracle turn into a bit of a disaster.
“I don’t play the lottery that much. Every once in a while, I’ll buy a Powerball ticket, but something told me to buy a lottery ticket,” Nicole Coggins of Liberty, S.C. told WYFF. Coggins said that she was “having a good day” and wanted to try her hand at a Holiday Cash Add-A-Play game on Christmas.
WYFF explained that to win the $500 prize, a player’s ticket would have to get three Christmas trees in a row, whether vertical, horizontal or diagonal.
Coggins got a winning ticket on her first try.
“I was excited. I was calling everyone I knew, ‘I won $500,'” she said.
She tried again just to see how lucky she was that day and got another winning ticket. She kept on trying.
“And it was another winner and another winner. So I thought, ‘Well, maybe there is something wrong with their machine. This can’t be real.'”
After finding success at a few other locations, Coggins called Shawanna Ladd, her mother-in-law, and had her try. Ladd had a similar experience and the women soon racked up $18,000 of prize money together. Coggins herself paid about $100 to buy tickets.
When the women went to cash their tickets, however, they were told that the transactions were invalid. And they weren’t alone.
When news of the supposedly winning tickets go out, one store manager said dozens of people came in to play the lottery. He said that the machines stopped issuing tickets after about an hour of chaos.
Coggins and others were saddened by the discovery. Coggins said that she had already promised her children a trip to Disney World.
“I had been promising them for years and I thought I would finally get to, and now I can’t.”
It was later discovered that the South Carolina Education Lottery’s (SCEL) computer system vendor, Intralot, experienced a glitch that printed the same one play symbol between 5:51 p.m. to 7:53 p.m. Had all gone as planned, no more than five identical play symbols would have been printed for each winning combination.
The organization tweeted that it would suspend the game until further notice, but advised all who purchased a ticket at the time of the glitch to keep the tickets in their position.
At least one Twitter user said they had a picture of a non-winning ticket from the time the glitch was happening. Others on Twitter said that having non-winning tickets among winning tickets only added to the perception that there was nothing wrong with the lottery.
Coggins blamed the SCEL for the error and said that the organization should either honor the winnings or give players their money back.
And despite the sadness, she’s counting the blessings she already had.
“I’ll always have my family and I’m thankful for my family and that’s the more important thing in the world.”