SBC Digital – Africa: Unusual Powerball draw was proven ‘random and not manipulated’ – Helena Pereira

Szrek2Solutions' Helena Pereira explained in depth at SBC Digital Africa why a surprising South African Powerball draw on December 1, 2020, was legitimate.

Speaking at this week’s SBC Digital Africa event, Vice President of Szrek2Solutions Helena Pereira explained to delegates why a surprising draw of South Africa Lottery’s Powerball on December 1, 2020, was legitimate by explaining in depth about the draw verification process.

The Powerball draw result caught attention worldwide when the numbers drawn – and sorted from lowest to highest – formed a sequence of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, raising general suspicion of foul play.

Taking part in the BetConstruct-sponsored panel titled ‘A Lottery of Trust’, she said: “The South African Lottery has two separate systems. They have a system that does the draw and a system that verifies them, and they actually do this during the draw in real-time before they publish the results. They will verify them, and then after the draw at any time, you can go back and verify the draw.

“Just to say a little bit about how it works; you have what we call the ‘Trusted Draw System’ and that creates a proof of integrity with every draw, and then you have the ‘Independent Audit System’ and that uses that proof of integrity, which is a file, and it uses that to independently recreate the result.

“If the draw results match, it confirms that it was random and not manipulated, and that was the case that was here [for the December 1 Powerball draw]. Otherwise, if the verification would have failed then we would have known there was a problem and we would be able to immediately analyse it to find the source [of the problem].”

Pereria continued: “The South African Lottery was absolutely sure there was no problem. And that’s really the value of the draw system that they have is the fact the system is able to confirm after the fact that either there was a problem and then identify it conclusively or say conclusively that there was no problem.”

Fellow panellist and Chief Lottery Director of ITHUBA Holdings Brendan Burns was able to verify the draw’s validity.

He commented: “December 1 seemed like a normal Powerball draw day. The auditors turned up, the draw team turned up, everybody did their normal pre-checks on the systems. And then finally the numbers were pulled out, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and the Powerball was 10, making a rather unusual sequential and rather unique sequence of numbers which caused quite a lot of attention with the media and the public.

“The majority of people accepted that the lottery’s procedures are very trustworthy, but there are always the odd few people that don’t believe statistics. It is an unusual set of numbers to come out. Sequences are not that common. Smaller sequences are very common. Often you’ll see three balls or four balls [in sequence] pulled out of a lottery drawing, but this was a bit unusual that all balls came out in order.

“There was no police investigation, it wasn’t a criminal case. The draw was checked for verification afterwards and there was nothing wrong with the machinery or no intervention from anybody, so it was a genuine random draw. It just so happened to be a very unusual set of numbers.”

Moderated by Independent Consultant Jonas Ödman, other speakers on the panel, part of the Established South Africa track, were Consultant at Tenica Consulting Neil Jasper,
Member of the Board at Emirat Frank Herold, and Non-Executive Director of GameCover Dhrupal Amin.

Jasper added that while it may be unusual to see lottery games draw balls out in a sequence, it is a common choice of numbers used by many players when making their number selections.

He stated: “In the first two licence periods, we had a lot of players that used to play the numbers ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6’ the whole time and as much as it’s referred to as the unusual draw or irregular draw, it’s not. It’s the same odds as any set of numbers coming out.

“I think what compounded the sheer amount of winners was the fact that they were all low numbers which means they all feed into birthdays and calendar dates, and that obviously produced a lot more winners that were playing the small sequential, but it’s the same everywhere.

“People play the numbers that they choose, they play strange sequences of numbers. Some people play ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6’ in every draw that has ever happened and they participate in every single draw. It’s up to the players.”

As for the future of lotteries in Africa, Amin and Herold both agreed that technology was the way forward, with Amin saying the right software is ‘critical’ to make lotto ‘easy to play,’ as well as providing accurate results for players. However, he also stated that lotteries must offer competitive lottery jackpots as well so they can still compete with other gambling verticals.

Herold added that lottery technology must be ‘easy and perfect’ for the market to grow and that over the past 12 months because of the COVID pandemic, there has been a strong movement in the mobile lottery market. However, a good marketing strategy is still needed to bring the product into the market.

Despite the growth in online lottery and mobile lottery over the past year in Africa, both Jasper and Burns commented that retail remains dominant, with Jasper stating the infrastructure isn’t there, so the right omnichannel approach is needed to succeed in the future.

Burns added: “Retail space is still dominant, but there was a dramatic shift in South Africa away from brick and mortar into the online channels during the COVID lockdowns.

“Luckily for us, we had the random number generator and the online lotteries and we have a very unique partnership with our banking partners that are also selling lottery tickets on their mobile apps, so we have maintained the continuity of sales. We did see a little dip, but nothing to be very worried about.

“We were able to carry on with remote draws and the online channels were swelled by almost twice as many registrations. Right now, 40% of our business is online.”

Burns also believes that lottery games will change, becoming more sociable, more competitive and virtual as well. He also believes blockchain could enter the market to help create an African Lottery, or possibly even a global lottery.

This week’s SBC Digital Africa conference and exhibition features a speaker line-up of 60 senior executives and specialists, all ready to share hard-to-find information about the continent’s best opportunities for betting and gaming operators.

The agenda for the event on 30-31 March 2021 includes sessions that examine the future of the markets in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire, and deliver insights on key issues such as payments technology, marketing strategies and the growth of esports.

To register for your free ticket, click here