Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi
Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Website glitch let kids buy Lotto tickets

By Bianca Capazorio Time of article published Mar 22, 2011

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Gidani’s PlaySALottery, a website that allows punters to buy Lotto tickets online and from their cellphones, was suspended for just more than a week because a technical glitch would have allowed children under the age of 11 to register and play.

By law lottery tickets can be sold only to people older than 18.

A notice on the website last week said the service had been suspended “for a short period of time”.

The website was reinstated on Friday night.

National Lotteries Board (NLB) spokesman Sershan Naidoo said the service had been suspended because of “technical reasons”. The error was picked up during a NLB compliance test earlier this month.

Dawid Miller, Gidani’s head of compliance, said the site was suspended on March 10.

According to Gidani’s code of practice “any retail outlet selling tickets or paying prizes to people less than 18 years of age may be banned from selling tickets and may face criminal charges”.

The service is set up in such a way that players must register. The registration requests an ID number. Money then has to be transferred into a special “digital wallet” from the player’s bank account, after which they can buy lottery tickets until the money in their wallet runs out.

Muller said the algorithm that worked out whether a player was older than 18 was thoroughly tested before the service went live in May. A certificate of compliance was issued by Ernst & Young at the time. But the tests used the birth dates and ID numbers of children born before 2000. Muller said South African ID numbers did not differentiate between children born, for example, in 1905 and 2005, with both numbers starting with 05. The Gidani system would therefore register a player born in 2005 as 106, rather than just six.

When the error was uncovered the site was pulled, and the algorithm rewritten. Investigations showed that no children under the age of 11 had registered (other than those used in the compliance tests), and six players aged between 14 and 16 had tried to register, but the system had been able to pick this up and blocked their registration.

Muller said the system was then sent for full testing again by Ernst & Young and a new compliance certificate had been obtained and submitted to the NLB.

l Gidani has contravened the terms of its licence twice. The first lapse, which resulted in a R5 million fine suspended for three years, was for the contravention of internal controls, while the second, which has still not been finalised but could result in a R15m fine, related to contravention of security controls.

Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said in reply to a recent parliamentary question that in both cases of contravention no disciplinary action was taken and no officials were involved. - Sunday Independent

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