How Lottery Machines Work
When it comes to official lottery draws, players usually focus their attention on the numbered balls that appear, rather than the machines from which they emerge. This is of course the goal of every manufacturer because it means their equipment is running quietly and efficiently in the background.
That they operate properly and without error is absolutely essential for a lottery’s credibility. There are two types of drawing machines commonly used in major lotteries: air mix and gravity pick.
Air Mix Lottery Machines
Air mix machines use carefully weighted lottery balls which have been specially configured for lottery use. These are released into a transparent mixing chamber in which jets of air are blown. The duration that the balls are retained in the chamber can be configured according to each particular game.
To select a set, the operator releases a valve which allows the air to escape through a set of tubes near the top of the machine. Once open, the balls are first blown into another tube before being transferred to a display area for reading.
Gravity Pick Lottery Machines
Gravity pick machines use solid rubber balls that are heavier than the ones used in air mix lottery machines. These are also fed into a transparent mixing chamber where two paddles, spinning in the opposite direction mix them up.
To draw the balls, an operator opens a sliding door, usually at the bottom of the chamber and, one-by-one, the balls pass through a tube into a clear display area. Many of these machines feature computer sensors which detect the passage of each ball to ensure the correct number is released through the door.
The Lottery Balls
There are generally three types of drawing balls which can be categorised according to the material used: closed cell polymer, heavy rubber and celluloid.
Closed-Cell Polymer Balls
The closed cell polymer balls can be seen in games such as the UK lotto and offer very high levels of security. They contain tags which enable the electronic identification of each ball number and are extremely lightweight.
Heavy Rubber Balls
Heavy rubber balls are also used extensively with big lottery operators and provide the same level of security as the closed-cell polymer versions – however, they’re better suited to gravity-pick machines. These also accommodate electronic tags for identification purposes if required.
Celluloid Drawing Balls
Celluloid drawing balls use the same material as table tennis balls but are of a much higher quality. Their light weight makes them ideal for use in air mix machines.
For professional-grade balls, stringent quality control inspections are undertaken throughout the manufacturing process. To avoid tampering and lottery scams the surfaces are checked thoroughly for perfect consistency, with weight variations set at a mere +/- .075 grams.
Once cleared for distribution, they’re placed in sets and then packed in lockable cases. After purchase, it is then up to individual lottery operators to provide security. In most cases, the balls are stored in highly secure vaults with only a very small amount of people authorised to handle them.