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A Charleston resident won the lottery 125 times. State auditors think something’s up

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An unnamed Charleston resident has won the lottery 125 times, netting more than $289,000, but there is probably more than just luck involved.

In order to win the lottery that many times, every resident of S.C. would have to spend $317,275 over nine years just for one person to have a one in 10 million chance of winning that frequently, according to a recently released report from the S.C. Legislative Audit Council.

In other words, it’s impossible.

That unnamed Charleston resident was one of 10 people who have claimed to have won the lottery more than 50 times between November 2008 and November 2017, auditors found.

The far more likely scenario is that the 10 people bought the winning lottery tickets from actual winners, the report said. The reason that might happen is because when someone wins more than $5,000, the state can withhold part or all of the winnings to pay off unpaid taxes, student loans or child support, the report said. Anyone facing a potential withholding might sell the ticket at a price lower than the winnings to ensure they get some money, the report said.

However, the report does not cite any instances where a person was caught buying or selling winning lottery tickets.

The legality of buying and selling winning lottery tickets is unclear. The S.C. Education Lottery Commission argues the practice is legal because not everyone who buys a lottery ticket in South Carolina (i.e. a tourist on vacation in Myrtle Beach) can drive to Columbia to claim a large prize. Auditors argue the practice is likely illegal because state law requires lottery tickets to be sold only by licensed vendors and sold only for the value of the ticket.

Because the lottery commission and auditors disagreed on this point, auditors formally asked the S.C. Attorney General to issue a legal opinion on whether it should be legal to buy and sell winning lottery tickets, the report said.

Assuming the theory that prolific lottery winners may be involved in buying winning tickets is correct, auditors have proposed several solutions.

One proposition would make public the names of those who win the lottery, the report said. Unlike in other states, that information is kept secret in South Carolina. This would allow members of the public to know who repeat winners are. However, there are concerns about the privacy of those who win the lottery, the report said.

Another proposition is to have another agency enforce lottery rules besides the S.C. Education Lottery, the report said. As is, the lottery is responsible for making a product, marketing it and also enforcing violations.

“When any organization has the authority to sell a product and the authority to oversee retailer and customer misconduct, over the long term, there may be reduced incentive to address misconduct that does not negatively affect sales,” the report said.

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