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The Luckiest Lady in New Hampshire

An illustration of 'Queen of Hearts' playing card
Sara Plourde
How did one woman get so lucky with the New Hampshire State Lottery?

Tim Dullea plays the lottery, though not exclusively for the trappings of wealth. A soft-spoken Portsmouth resident with a career in IT, Dullea said that if he ever hit a jackpot, his biggest splurge would be a top-of-the-line Mini Cooper.

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Despite being an infrequent player, Dullea ended up on the New Hampshire Lottery’s weekly newsletter distribution list, where he noticed something strange.

These emails include announcements about upcoming jackpots, as well as a list of the previous week’s winners of all prizes of $600 or more. (In New Hampshire, the names of all winners above $599 are public information.)

In 2019, Dullea, who shyly admits to reading these emails, spotted a pattern. Week after week, he saw many of the same names popping up on the winner list. When he compiled the names of all the winners in a spreadsheet, it became clear one person was winning at a rate far higher than anyone else.

A photograph of Tim Dullea
Todd Bookman/NHPR
Tim Dullea stumbled upon a lottery winning streak that appeared to defy the odds.

During a five month stretch, this player, who Dullea started calling ‘Lady Luck’, hit 48 different jackpots valued at over $600 playing online scratch tickets. In total, Lady Luck cleared more than $62,000 during her run, including on some seemingly incredible long shots, including multiple jackpots that, according to the published odds, she had a one in ten million chance of hitting.

He couldn’t shake the idea that the odds of Lady Luck’s winnings were improbable.

“Something is afoot, Sherlock,” Dullea said.

What Dullea spotted in September 2019 — and then convinced NHPR’s Todd Bookman was worth investigating — turned into a two-year odyssey involving hundreds of pages of internal documents, a statistician with a passion for lottery computations and a boat ride to a tiny island.

The result is ‘The Luckiest Lady in New Hampshire,’ a special two-part radio program from NHPR.

Click on the audio links below to listen:

Part 1: Something is afoot, Sherlock

Find the transcript for episode one here.

Part 2: It's pretty chillax out here

Find the transcript for episode two here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with gambling addiction in New Hampshire, text or call the National Gambling Hotline at 1-800-522-4700. You can find more resources here.

Special thanks to Julin Shaw and Phillip Stark. This story was edited by Dan Barrick, Jason Moon, Rebecca Lavoie and Cori Princell. Music by Blue Dot Sessions. 

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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