Unless New Jersey lottery retailers are either incredibly lucky or are spending a mind-boggling amount of money on lottery tickets, something pretty fishy is going on, the Asbury Park Press reports. A Press investigation found that half of the 20 most frequent prizewinners in the New Jersey Lottery since 2009—and five of the top six—are ticket retailers or their relatives, who collected a a combined 840 prizes worth around $1.8 million. The most prolific winner is Pramila Baile, whose son operates two liquor stores. She has claimed 134 prizes totaling more than $275,000 over the last six years, including instant scratch-off payouts of up to $20,000.
Statisticians say Baile and other prolific winners would have to spend hundreds of dollars a day on lottery tickets to win so often, but the Press has a more likely explanation: ticket "discounting," an illegal practice in which lottery winners who want to avoid things like court-ordered child support payments collect through a discounter who cashes the ticket for a fee of around 20%. State officials say they investigate and punish discounters, though fines are relatively small and there have been very few cases of ticket sellers having their licenses revoked. New Jersey requires lottery winners who receive public assistance to refund the programs, but a recent audit found that dozens of big winners continued to receive payments, including one man who received $1,000 a week from a "Win for Life" scratch-card payout, the Star-Ledger reports.