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Warning over Powerball tickets

Ticket sales: Paradise Games on Court Street (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The state lottery in Florida has issued a warning to people in Bermuda buying tickets for the multimillion-dollar Powerball draw from a local bookmaker.

Paradise Games, on Court Street, offers tickets for the Powerball Lottery, telling customers on its Facebook page earlier this month that they stood to win the $900 million jackpot which was drawn last night.

It is understood the betting shop uses an agent in Miami to buy tickets on behalf of customers in Bermuda, complying with lottery rules that require all tickets to be bought in the state of Florida from an authorised retailer.

Nidia Tew, public affairs specialist at the Florida Lottery, told The Royal Gazette that the organisation did not endorse such schemes and she warned players in Bermuda taking part to ensure a ticket was purchased for them in Florida.

But she agreed that winnings could be collected in Florida, so long as the winning ticket was bought in the state.

“They are not affiliated with us in any way,” Ms Tew said. “We are not encouraging anybody to go through any website or foreign [entity] or by mail. We will not endorse people to do stuff like that. Nobody is authorised to sell tickets outside of the state of Florida.

“In order for anybody to play the lottery, they do need to be in Florida because the tickets do need to be bought and claimed in our state.”

Shelly Gerteisen, communications manager at the Florida Lottery, later added: “Only Florida retailers that have an active contract with the Florida Lottery are authorised to sell Florida Lottery tickets.

“Paradise Games is not an authorised Florida Lottery retailer. The arrangement presented is not legal in Florida.”

Ms Tew said she was not aware of overseas retailers operating such schemes, but she agreed that there would be nothing to stop a winner from collecting their prize if the ticket was legitimate.

“As long as you get the ticket and the ticket is legitimate and you can personally claim it in Florida, we will not ask any questions. But we want to make sure people are not being taken advantage of. Play responsibly. Make sure that they buy the tickets in Florida. We can verify where the ticket was bought.”

The method understood to be used by Paradise Games is similar to British-based website thelotter.com, which uses local agents to buy lottery tickets from inside the United States on behalf of customers. The website charges customers a transaction fee and in return they receive a scan of any ticket purchased before the draw.

According to a report in this newspaper in March last year, Paradise Games charges $3.50 for Powerball tickets, which retail in the US for $2.

Bermuda’s Lotteries Act 1944 prohibits the sale or distribution of “tickets or chances” in “any lottery ... in Bermuda or elsewhere”.

The Betting Act 1975 states that nothing in the Lotteries Act 1944 can “render unlawful the business of receiving or negotiating bets by a licensed bookmaker or licensed pool betting agent”.

Police commissioner Michael DeSilva did not respond to questions yesterday about the legality of offering customers in Bermuda the chance to take part in the Powerball draw. The Royal Gazette reported last year that police officers were understood to have questioned staff at Paradise Games as part of a swoop on illegal gaming activities at a number of betting establishments across the Island.

The outcome of their inquiry has not been made public and Mr DeSilva did not respond to questions about it yesterday.

Opposition leader Marc Bean owns Paradise Games but he declined to comment when contacted by this newspaper. He referred us to his wife, lawyer Simone Smith-Bean, but she did not respond to e-mailed questions by press time.

The paper visited three other bookmakers in Hamilton yesterday — Seahorses, Triple Crown Racing and GameTime — and all said they did not sell tickets for US lotteries.

Florida Lottery is also warning players to avoid an online scam selling shares of Powerball tickets. It said in a press release yesterday that a website had been launched claiming to be a USA Powerball syndicate and offering a scheme in which players purchase shares and all winnings are divided equally between each share.

“Under Florida law, players cannot purchase any lottery ticket, including Powerball, over the internet, phone, or by mail,” the press release said. “All lottery tickets must be purchased from an authorised Florida Lottery retailer in the state of Florida.”

The Powerball jackpot had risen to $1.6 billion by last night’s midnight draw. The winning numbers were: 8, 27, 34, 4, 19 and the Powerball of 10.

The three winning tickets were sold in Florida, Tennessee and California. The odds of winning the jackpot were one in 292.2 million.

• Did you buy a Powerball ticket? Do you plan to buy one for the next draw? E-mail us at news@royalgazette.com and tell us why.