A man who was buying tickets in the Des Moines area contacted us because he thought the time on our lottery terminals was fast, which he believed had caused him to miss the sales cut-off time for that night’s Hot Lotto® drawing. (I blogged last week about sales cut-off times before our drawings and why we have them.)
In Hot Lotto specifically, the sales cut-off time here in Iowa for a particular drawing is about 1 hour and 20 minutes beforehand. Drawings in that game are at 9:40 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Tickets can be purchased in Iowa until 8:18 p.m. on the night of the drawing. If you buy a ticket after that, it will be for an upcoming drawing, and not the one occurring that night.
The player who contacted us said he was in a store in Ankeny on a Saturday at 8:17 p.m., but the sales cut-off time had already occurred, so he missed having a ticket for that night’s drawing. He said the time on our lottery terminal was 4 minutes fast.
I find that interesting, simply from the sheer number of devices we can use to check the time these days – and they likely all show a slightly different time. In my office right now, I have a watch on my wrist and there are clocks on my computer, office telephone and mobile phone. If I walk down the hall, there also are clocks on the wall. They’re all pretty close, but they don’t show exactly the same time.
We double-checked the information about our gaming system’s clock after we got the player’s email. Our lottery terminals are all tied to one central communications system. Each time a retailer logs on to the system, the terminal that is being used updates its parameters – including its time setting – from the central system.
The time on the central system is synced to an atomic clock, which is one of the most accurate time-keeping devices in the world. The system is periodically resynced to that atomic clock to adjust for time drift. When we checked the system time a few days ago, it was just 8 or 9 seconds off from the atomic clock, so no adjustment was needed. The system time is in fact quite accurate.
In the case of the player who contacted us, he said that the receipt he got from the cash register in the store showed 8:17 p.m. But our lottery terminals are separate from the cash register, so the times that each machine shows is likely a little off from the other.
To avoid running into the time cut-off for a particular drawing, we always suggest that players buy their tickets well in advance of the cut-off time. And remember that you can buy plays in our games for multiple drawings at a time – that that’s another convenience we’re happy to offer to our customers.