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Behind the scenes of the historic $2 billion Powerball drawing delayed by the Minnesota Lottery

Internal emails show behind the scenes look at 2022 Minnesota Lottery Powerball delay
Internal emails show behind the scenes look at 2022 Minnesota Lottery Powerball delay 04:17

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Powerball jackpot creeped up to more than $900 million this week.

It's one of the biggest ever but a long way from last year's record prize of $2 billion.

That historic drawing got delayed until the next morning, and it was all because of the Minnesota Lottery.

WCCO obtained thousands of pages of internal Lottery records that tell the story of what happened.

The drawing was delayed because the Lottery's process ensuring the integrity of the game ran into a technical issue with an outside vendor called Spectra Systems.

Emails throughout the night and early morning hours show employees writing messages such as, "This is simply awful," and, "It looks like we are in for a late night," and, "This is a high priority situation... We need to get things figured out ASAP."

Internal records show ticket sales in Minnesota were up four times compared to an average jackpot.

The day started out cheerfully.

One regional sales manager wrote to his team, "Happy Monday! What better way to celebrate Sophie's birthday than with a historic jackpot drawing!!"

When the problem was discovered, several emails went back and forth between the Lottery and Spectra.

Wes Harms, the Minnesota Lottery's Director of Operations, wrote, "I want to make sure this is an all hands on deck situation. We are the lone jurisdiction holding up this process. This is making national news on the eve of mid-term elections."

Harms declined to be interviewed for this story via a spokesperson.

"It was stressful for people," said Marie Hinton, a Lottery spokesperson. "They really take their job seriously. There were people working here throughout the entire night to make sure we could do the drawing as soon as possible."

Soon, pressure started coming from the Multi-State Lottery Association, or MUSL, which administers the Powerball.

J. Bret Toyne, MUSL's executive director, wrote to every state lottery director in America, "One state isn't reporting balanced sales...Very likely will be delayed."

At midnight, Toyne emailed Adam Prock, the Minnesota Lottery Executive Director, "I am getting questions as to when it might be resolved, any insight you can share would be appreciated."

Prock also declined to be interviewed.

Harms communicated his confusion about the delay to MUSL.

"I don't yet understand fully, nor has it been explained satisfactorily why this is taking so long," he wrote.

The MUSL official responds, "Lord, please let it keep going and be done before 8:00[a.m.]."

As all this was going on, angry emails from players poured in.

One person wrote, "This was a great way to really make this look sketchy, what a scam!!"


At 7:50 the next morning, the problem was fixed.

The rest of the country could finally hold the historic drawing.

Prock apologized to every other state lottery, saying, "I am extremely sorry for the delay...Original estimates [for a fix] were 30 minutes to 1 hour...The process actually took nearly 6 hours. I apologize for causing serious delays on what should have been one of the game's most exciting nights."

"The number one thing is the integrity of the game so we would always do the right thing and delay a drawing," Hinton said.

A winning ticket being sold in California didn't take the spotlight off Minnesota.

Questions about what happened came from Inside Edition, NBC News, Good Morning America, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and New York Times.

"Drawing delays are rare but they do happen, and they'll probably happen again, just hopefully not a two-billion-dollar jackpot," Hinton said.

MUSL declined to be interviewed for this story.

After the drawing, the Lottery immediately went to work reviewing its processes.

"We upgraded our systems so they could handle large amounts of data faster," Hinton said. "[The drawing] was fair and secure, and that's all that really matters."

For a more detailed explanation of what went wrong that night, click here.

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