Like many of you, the team at the Minnesota Lottery was excited to see if the Nov. 7 world record jackpot would hit, or if it would keep growing. While most ticket holders were dreaming of becoming a billionaire, Minnesota Lottery officials became aware of an issue with one of our vendor systems. At that point, it was all-hands-on-deck.

What was the problem? For several hours, we couldn’t complete our essential verification processes because of a communications problem with an external vendor’s computer system. Normally, issues like this are resolved within an hour. However, this time it took much longer.

While we were disappointed to delay the national drawing, the integrity and accuracy of our games always take priority. That is why there are numerous checks and balances in place to ensure every ticket has an equal chance to win, and the drawing pool is correct. On Nov. 7, our security protocols worked, and that delayed the drawing until everything met the high standards required for all Powerball lotteries.

We are here to answer some important questions: 1) why our security protocols are so important, 2) why the delay occurred, and 3) what we’re doing to minimize any future delays.

The Lottery’s Internal Control Systems for Drawings

The Minnesota Lottery works with two key vendors to ensure every lottery ticket purchased has a fair and equal chance of winning.

  1. The Minnesota Lottery has a contract with a central gaming system vendor that is responsible for printing tickets and recording each lottery transaction to verify a ticket is authentic.
  2. The Minnesota Lottery has a contract with an independent internal control system vendor that is responsible for checking the work of the central gaming system.

This division of responsibilities is essential so that no one, including Minnesota Lottery staff or either of the Minnesota Lottery’s key vendors, could compromise a lottery game.

Every night, before a drawing can happen, the Minnesota Lottery’s central gaming and internal control systems must “balance.” This means that every single data entry must be transmitted between the two systems and perfectly match. Normally, this occurs throughout the day in close to real time. Until the Minnesota Lottery can verify all data has been transmitted and matched, we cannot confirm our system has balanced.

For Powerball, each participating lottery must balance before the drawing. If even one lottery cannot balance, the drawing is delayed until the issue is identified and corrected. This is essential so that every ticket across the country has an equal chance of winning, and all prizes are accurately accounted for.

What Happened on Nov. 7?

On Monday, Nov. 7, the Minnesota Lottery’s two vendors were not able to communicate in real time, which delayed our ability to balance. From the time the Minnesota Lottery sold its last Powerball ticket at 9 p.m. until about 1:45 a.m. on Nov. 8, our team worked with its internal control system vendor to fix the communications problem. However, at about 1:45 a.m., our internal control system vendor determined that it could not process the data it had collected throughout the day.

Therefore, at about 2:15 a.m., we made the decision to start over processing the entire day’s sales data. Because of the tremendous number of sales, this process took about 5.5 hours. The Minnesota Lottery was able to confirm sales data and was in balance at 7:50 a.m. on Nov. 8. This cleared the Multi-State Lottery to conduct the drawing, which occurred at 7:54 a.m. At no time was the sales data or the game compromised.

What’s Next?

The Minnesota Lottery is actively correcting the systems problems identified by its operations experts and vendor partners. On Nov. 8 and Nov. 9, the two systems communicated correctly, and we were able to confirm all drawings were balanced with no delay. That’s great news. Together with our vendor partners we are reviewing every step of our existing processes and contingency plans. We are confident that we can improve to minimize delays, while maintaining the utmost security and integrity.

The Bottom Line

We sincerely apologize for the delay. We were just as excited as you were to learn about a new billionaire. However, we had no choice but to delay the drawing. Any error in the drawing would have been worse than the actual delay.

We thank you for your patience and understanding. While we can’t promise another delay won’t occur, we can promise that the security and integrity of the Minnesota Lottery will remain our top priority.

By the Numbers:

Average Minnesota Powerball drawing sales during the 41-draw run: $1.2 million

Minnesota Powerball drawing sales for Nov. 7: $9.3 million

Winning Powerball tickets sold in Minnesota during the 41-draw run: 948,429

Dollars generated for important state programs and projects that benefit all Minnesotans during the Aug. 6 – Nov. 7 run: $18.9 million

Learn how the Minnesota Lottery is Playing Our Part to make Minnesota an even better place to live.