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Work in the media? Struggle with statistics? Stan's irreverent (and often irrelevant) review of the latest media reports, news and gossip may not help at all... Stan the Statistician

Stan # 77: "Damn idiot" wins lottery May 2004

From 1997 to 2001, John Struna bought 40-55 tickets per game from the Convenient Food Mart in Cleveland, Ohio, in his attempts to win the Buckeye Five lottery. By his own estimates, he spent $125,000 per year on the tickets.

He finally beat the odds: on Oct. 25 2001, after buying 52 tickets with the same number, Struna won. Each ticket was worth $100,000. Except, the Ohio Lottery Commission pointed out, the 52 tickets didn't add up to $5.2 million, since the rules for the game limited the payout to $1 million total. And since there were actually 53 winning tickets for that game, that $1 million would be split 53 ways, leaving Struna with 'only' $981,000.

Whose fault is it that Struna didn't understand the rules? Harry Singh, the owner of the Convenient Food Mart, said he gave Struna a copy of the lottery's rules. Struna even kept them, carrying them in his pocket, says Singh's lawyer, Gary Seewald.

Mardele Cohen, spokeswoman for the Ohio Lottery, says the rules for games are clearly posted on signs provided to ticket retailers and on their web site. Retailers are not required to give copies of the rules to ticket buyers, so Singh actually did more than what was required of him by giving Struna a printed copy. Cohen added that it's reasonably common for an individual player to buy 10 tickets in an attempt to get all of the $1 million limit, "but when we saw that someone bought 52 tickets, it didn't make any sense to us."

Attorney Seewald notes that every single ticket even has the $1 million cap printed on it. Between that, the rules folder, the signs and the Lottery's web site, the Lottery "does a fairly good job of publicizing their rules and I think people have an obligation not to be damn idiots."

Struna begs to differ. He says the Lottery Commission didn't do enough to let people know there was a cap and, as an official retailer, Singh should have discouraged him from buying more than 10 tickets with any particular number combination on them. With the help of attorney Andrew Kabat, he sued Singh in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court demanding $100,000 in compensation for each winning ticket that was made worthless by the Lottery's rule. He also filed suit against the Ohio Lottery, claiming false advertising, in the Ohio Court of Claims.

The case against the Lottery Commission was thrown out, but the Common Pleas jury ruled against Singh and awarded Struna $1.3 million. His attorney says the huge judgement "could literally destroy him."

Struna is appealing the dismissal of his case against the Lottery. Singh says he will appeal too.

When faced with people wanting to buy something, lottery ticket retailers shouldn't have to question the patron to ensure they understand all the rules. The tickets had the relevant rule printed right on them, but Singh went further and gave a copy of the rules to Struna - who chose not to read them. Should Singh have held Struna down and forced him to listen to him read the rules aloud? Of course not. But that's the sort of requirement the jury would have us believe is reasonable by awarding a "damn idiot" more than a million bucks for refusing to read what is given to him.


People in Northern Ireland fart, belch and pick their nose more than anyone else in the UK, according to a survey of bodily functions reported on the front page of the Times. The survey, conducted in conjunction with an exhibition at the Science Museum, found that 44% of Northern Irish people pick their nose five times a day, while 29% of people in the UK as a whole would not hesitate to fart indiscreetly, and 34% pick their nose and eat it. Wimbledon is the most loved-up area of Britain, according to a survey by Safeway which found residents purchased the most condoms in the country. A spokesman for Safeway told the Mirror: "We thought a seaside town like Blackpool or a big city might have come top... It may be a pretty London suburb but people obviously know how to enjoy themselves."

Milton Keynes came last in the love stakes, but generous Safeway reckoned "there must be more exciting things to do there." Yeah, that must be it.


They have less sex than the French and die younger than the Italians but British over-55s know how to have fun, according to new research commissioned for a "silver summit" of older Europeans in Rome yesterday. The secret of the British joie de vivre, it would appear, is spending the most on holidays, hobbies and eating out.

Check in again at my desk soon!

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