COLUMBIA, SC (FOX 46 WJZY) - South Carolina Education Lottery officials will set set aside $19.6 million for the "potential validation of claims" after a game glitch on Christmas left many thinking they were winners.
"These are all the winning tickets I have," said Tony Berry, holding a stack of the Holiday Cash Add-A-Play games. "$29,000 worth."
Berry spent $80 on tickets because he kept winning. He admits he knew something was not right.
"Yes I did," he said. "But it's not my fault."
The announcement came after a closed door emergency meeting Friday afternoon. Lottery officials directed staff to continue its legal research and investigation.
"It will be a great Christmas if they pay," Berry said.
News of a potential payout is welcome news to folks like Berry who took advantage of the mistake and kept buying the "winning" lottery tickets.
"Everybody should get paid," he said. "They get all of our money all the time."
But FOX 46 discovered paying out those claims could be illegal. Under the South Carolina Education Lottery Act, prizes "must not be paid" if the ticket is "fraudulent" or "produced or issued in error."
The mistake last for more than two hours on Christmas when, lottery officials say, a "programming error" with its computer system vendor, Intralot, caused the Holiday Cash Add-A-Play game to keep printing winning $500 tickets.
Intralot did not respond to requests for comment.
Fox 46 has learned that five months ago lotto bosses made some sort of change to the game which has been around since 2013.
"A design change was requested and executed in July," said South Carolina Education Lottery spokesperson Holli Armstrong. "And until this investigation is complete e have no other comment."
Armstrong would not say what that change was, why it was necessary or if it contributed to the winning tickets mistakenly issued on Christmas.
She also would not comment on the potential illegality of a whopping $20 million payout.
It is unclear how much each "winner" would receive or how this would impact money earmarked for education.
Lottery officials will meet again before the end of January to "consider this matter further."
Players are urged to continue to hold onto their tickets.