Singapore Pools to contact punters affected by glitches in Toto Quick Pick system

SINGAPORE - Punters affected by the software glitches that hit Singapore Pools online Toto Quick Pick option will be contacted via e-mail or on their mobile numbers registered with the lottery operator.

In an update on Thursday (Jan 16), Singapore Pools said it has started contacting affected customers and will continue doing so over the next few days.

The glitches affected only punters who placed their bets online via the Toto Quick Pick system. To create an online account with Singapore Pools, one would have to provide details like e-mail address, mobile number, residential address and NRIC number.

On Wednesday, Singapore Pools revealed that its online Toto Quick Pick system had been affected by two software glitches, the first of which left the number 49 out of the set of random numbers generated in punters' bets for a period of more than a year.

The Quick Pick system generates a set of six random numbers between one and 49 for each such bet placed.

The incident is currently being investigated by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which regulates gambling here. The Straits Times understands that the problem was the first of its kind.

The glitches were found to have been introduced on Oct 2, 2018, during a system update conducted by a service vendor, Singapore Pools revealed in an earlier statement.

About 3 per cent of Toto sales were affected by the glitches, said the lottery operator, adding that 7 per cent of its Toto sales are done through its online platforms.

Singapore Pools said it will refund all customers who had placed online Quick Pick bets in the 14 draws where the number 49 was drawn as a winning number.

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It will also give a goodwill token to this group of customers, who may have missed out on potential winnings in the 14 draws.

Singapore Pools did not reply to The Straits Times' questions regarding the total amount of refunds made to the affected punters and specifics on the goodwill token.

The first software glitch was discovered by Singapore Pools on Dec 18 last year and rectified three days later. The MHA was alerted to the glitch on Jan 3.

The second software glitch was uncovered on Dec 20 (2019) while resolving the first glitch.

It affected the Quick Pick System Roll, which randomly generates a set of five numbers with a sixth "rolling" number - designated as "R" to represent any and all the remaining 44 numbers that could be picked as a winning number.

Because of the glitch, instead of randomly generating six numbers and then assigning R in place of one of the six generated numbers, the system replaced the largest of the six generated numbers with R instead.

This was reported to the MHA on Jan 10 this year and resolved three days later.

In response to queries on the reporting timeline, the MHA said Singapore Pools is required to adhere to the timelines imposed by the ministry, but did not elaborate on what they were. It declined further comment as investigations are ongoing.

While both glitches have been rectified, the incident has left some punters that ST spoke to feeling shortchanged.

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Operations director M. Magen, 52, who has placed bets in almost every Toto draw for nearly two decades, was upset to hear of the incident, as he feels it might have affected his chances.

He usually spends about $30 to $100 on each Toto draw, with the bulk of it used to purchase Quick Pick tickets.

"I know it is already hard to win Toto but knowing this makes me feel like I was not able to maximise my chances of winning," said Mr Magen, who said he had placed his Quick Pick bets online during the period the system was glitched.

Echoing this sentiment, Mr Jeffrey Then, 36, who works in the events industry, said he felt "cheated" when he heard the news, but nonetheless acknowledged that it was better that Singapore Pools admitted to the mistake.

Both men said they have not been contacted by Singapore Pools as of Thursday evening.

However, statistician Chua Tin Chiu from the National University of Singapore said none of the errors would have changed the affected punters' chances of winning.

He explained that at the point the numbers were generated via the online Quick Pick System, the chance of winning the top Toto prize would still be about 1 in 14 million. 

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.