COLUMBIA, SC (FOX 46 WJZY) - It was the glitch that stole Christmas.
For more than two hours last Christmas everyone who played the Holiday Cash Add-A-Play game in South Carolina was a winner - until they weren't.
"I had some winning tickets. A lot of them," said Tony Berry, who thought he won thousands of dollars.
Many players privately tell FOX 46 they are angry by that decision as officials brace for a class action lawsuit.
It is a story FOX 46 has been digging into for months. Our reporting uncovered what a paid audit, by Gaming Laboratories International, later learned - that there was a coding change by the game's vendor, Intralot, before the glitch occurred. That contributed to the lotto letdown, GLI found.
GLI found there was no independent review of the game's modification and blamed inadequate testing that would have discovered the error. Investigators concluded it was "not handled appropriately."
The report found no tampering of software or malicious activity.
The unlucky mistake, we now know, produced at least 71,000 "winning" tickets worth $500 each. That totaled at least $35.5 million dollars in tickets produced in error.
FOX 46 first reported in January that the South Carolina Education Lottery would likely not pay players their jackpot prize. That's because a statute we found, and later cited by lottery officials, said prizes produced or issued in error must not be paid.
In a statement, Intralot, which is no longer being used by SCEL, says this incident was not related to any failure of its core systems, software or hardware. Officials said "no mitigation measures" need to be taken by any of its clients.
The company declined to comment further citing pending litigation.