Lottery officials disclosed Wednesday that computer problems have made it impossible to account for a large but undetermined number of tickets left unsold last November when the lottery's first scratch-off game ended.
Spokesman Bob Taylor called the discrepancy a major problem that was discovered when accountants attempted to close the books on Game No. 1. But he said experts believe that "computer glitches" were to blame and that there is little or no chance that any of the tickets were stolen.
"It's a major problem only because when we close the books on the first game we want to make sure they are in a clean condition," Taylor said. "This is not a situation where we had theft or massive losses of tickets."
According to Taylor, of about 400 million tickets that were printed for the first game, about 20 million were unsold when the game officially ended Nov. 13. Officials in the Sacramento headquarters said an inventory revealed that all of those tickets were returned to the lottery warehouse. But Taylor said the inventory numbers did not match with computerized reports.
After being informed of the problem Wednesday, the five-member state Lottery Commission voted unanimously to hire the accounting firm of Peat, Marwick & Mitchell to oversee the investigation and recommend corrective measures. The firm is expected to take three to four weeks to complete the job.