The Man Who Tried to Buy the Lottery

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Pubs in Dublin, Ireland have provided inspiration for a source of great literary figures such as Brendan Behan, James Joyce and Bram Stoker, to name but a few. It was also in a pub in Dublin in 1992 that a plot was concocted to take down the Irish Lottery jackpot. Scruffy Murphy’s off Mount Street was the unlikely spot where an audacious plan was hatched to make a so-called ‘brute force’ attack on the lottery to guarantee a win.

For a period of time in the 1990s Scruffy’s was the watering-hole of choice for an eclectic mix of characters from the world of the media, entertainment, finance and politics. The owner was the larger-than-life figure of Paddy Mulligan, a man more likely to be found on the ‘wrong’ side of the bar drinking a brandy than behind it serving one.

Mulligan was one of the ten-man ‘Scruffy Murphy’s Syndicate’ that was formed by half-Polish accountant Stefan Klincewicz a couple of years previously. That syndicate had enjoyed a taste of success back in 1990 when they shared in the Irish Lotto jackpot of just under two and a half million Irish pounds. However, now Klicewicz had even grander plans and wasn’t going to rely solely on luck to hit the jackpot again.

This was possible because the accountant had checked the figures and discovered a fatal flaw in the calculations of the National Lottery organisers. A flaw that he and his fellow syndicate members were about to exploit. At that time, the Irish Lottery used a 6 from 36 format, meaning that the odds of hitting the jackpot were a (relatively) low 1,947,792 to which meant that should the jackpot rise high enough then a brute force attack on the jackpot became a realistic way to lock in a profit.

The lottery draw scheduled for 8pm on the evening of May 30th, 1992 was targeted, because not only had the jackpot rolled over to £1.7 million but also on that date the lottery organisers were giving a special prize of a guaranteed £100 for matching 4 numbers. This generous offer by the National Lottery was to prove their undoing on this occasion.

Klincewicz had calculated that they would need to spend just under a million pounds to buy up every possible combination of numbers. The 21-strong syndicate was mobilised as the date approached. Members were sent to stay in hotels around the country, targeting quieter lottery sellers so as not to disrupt too many patrons with their bulk purchasing of tickets. The lottery organisers soon noticed unusually high levels of ticket buying at shops where business was normally slow and quickly became suspicious.

A tit-for-tat battle ensued with the National Lottery closing down terminals in some shops and the syndicate searching for other ways to buy those tickets. By the time of the draw they had managed to purchase around £800,000 worth – meaning that there was still a chance they could miss out on that jackpot.

The results came in, and the news was good and bad for the Scruffy’s Syndicate. Most importantly, their numbers had come up and the syndicate had the winning ticket. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t the only ones. Two other winning tickets had also been purchased, meaning that the jackpot would be split three ways.

The syndicate’s collective bacon was saved by an accumulation of £100 wins for matching four numbers, and overall they reckoned to have made a profit of around £300,000. Not the killing they had hoped for, but not a bad haul either, and although the National Lottery was not too impressed with their tactics the money was handed over.

If you are thinking to try and replicate this feat, then you will have to look elsewhere. The Irish Lottery now uses a 6 from 47 format meaning that it’s just not possible to buy enough tickets to guarantee a win. Mr Klincewicz hasn’t given up on lotteries though, and has set his sights on the EuroMillions jackpot, although at time of writing he is still waiting for those numbers to come up.

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