DES MOINES (AP) — It was one of those feel-good moments that lotteries love to promote when “Lucky Larry” Dawson smiled as he claimed a $9 million jackpot, surrounded by kids and grandkids. Five years later, the Iowan could become a key player in a barrage of litigation that threatens to cost state lotteries tens of millions of dollars in damages in an insider jackpot-rigging scandal.
A Des Moines law firm filed a lawsuit Wednesday on Dawson’s behalf seeking to declare that his Hot Lotto jackpot in May 2011 should have been nearly three times as big, had the previous one not been fixed. It’s the first in what could be several lawsuits filed by players who claim they were ripped off in games allegedly rigged over several years by Eddie Tipton, former security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association.
Tipton has been convicted of rigging a $16.5 million jackpot in December 2010 by tampering with the random number generator that draws the Hot Lotto winning numbers at the association headquarters in Urbandale, Iowa, and then buying the six-number combination himself. He’s awaiting trial on charges alleging that he fixed jackpots worth millions in Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma between 2005 and 2011 and worked with associates to buy tickets and claim prizes.
Dawson’s lawsuit claims that the 2010 jackpot should have rolled over and created a $25.5 million pool for the jackpot.
The lawsuit seeks an order declaring Dawson the winner of the additional $16.5 million, which translates to $10 million in the lump sum cash option he’d take, plus interest.
“If the lottery hadn’t rigged their own game, our client would have had $10 million more in cash value.” said his attorney, Jerry Crawford.
The Iowa Lottery, named as a defendant along with the association, vowed to fight the lawsuit, saying Dawson “rightfully was paid the jackpot to which he was entitled.”
“It is impossible to rewrite history. No one can know what would have occurred in this case had any event in it been changed,” CEO Terry Rich said.
The Iowa Lottery didn’t pay the jackpot allegedly fixed by Tipton after lawyers who tried to claim it on behalf of a trust refused to identify who purchased the winning ticket. That money was returned to 16 states that participated in Hot Lotto as an “unclaimed prize.”
Tipton wasn’t charged until last year, after colleagues identified him as the person seen on gas station surveillance video buying the winning ticket. He was fired by the association, which helps administer games for 37 state and U.S. territorial lotteries.
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