App tells you if your ticket hits the lottery

Posted Friday, Apr. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Playing the Texas lottery has just gotten easier.

Just use your smartphone to take a picture of your lottery tickets for an upcoming Mega Millions or Powerball drawing, tuck the tickets away somewhere safe -- and wait for your phone to tell you if you are a winner.

A new cellphone app, YooLotto, will notify players if they are winners or losers after those drawings and even direct them to the nearest 7-Eleven store to claim their winnings or take advantage of a sale or promotion at that store.

"We wanted to change the way people play lottery," said Elmer Cha, who along with Eric Yoo created the app. "Even if people are avid or frequent lottery players, oftentimes they forget about the tickets.

"This way, you take a snapshot, put the ticket away and don't even worry" about checking the numbers.

The new app is geared to reduce unclaimed lottery prizes in Texas, which totaled more than $50 million last year, including $16.7 million from draw games such as Mega Millions and Powerball, the Texas Lottery Commission has reported.

Cha and Yoo, two 20-something Dallas entrepreneurs, have partnered with 7-Eleven Inc. on this app, which is available only in Texas.

"It makes the lottery experience better," said Raja Doddala, senior director of new business ventures at the Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc.

Cha said using the free cellphone app is very easy.

Users download the app and then, through it, take a photo of any and all lottery drawing tickets they buy in Texas.

Put the tickets someplace safe and forget about them.

Once the drawings are held, messages stating they are a winner -- and how much they have won -- will pop up on the cellphone. There also will be directions on how to get to the closest 7-Eleven store, as well as any information about specials or deals going on at that store.

"It's a way to enhance the already existing lottery experience," Cha said. "It's like a notification through mobile apps -- you hear a ding and then a message that says, 'YooLotto has your lottery results.'"

"We tell them if they won or lost ... and [tell them about] a coupon or a promotion" at 7-Eleven, he said. "We wanted to make it as convenient as possible."

Texas Lottery Commission officials say they are not affiliated with the app and warn that it is not an official lottery tool.

They also say it does not protect a player who has lost a ticket.

"It does not change how Texas Lottery tickets are validated or how lottery prizes are claimed," commission spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said in a statement. "Texas Lottery tickets can only be verified and validated at a Texas Lottery claim center or a licensed Texas Lottery retail location.

Players must maintain their original ticket in order to claim a prize.

"A photo of a lottery ticket cannot be used to claim a lottery prize."

Doddala said he was interested in the app after meeting Cha and Yoo through Tech Wildcatters, a program helping young entrepreneurs.

Within a year or so, Cha and Yoo hope to grow the app and make it available in all states that offer the Powerball and Mega Millions lottery drawings.

"This is just a start," Doddala said. "You want to start with just a few features and try to do well and evolve and expand."

The app works in Texas, directing lottery winners to around 445 franchise 7-Eleven stores in the state, including about 370 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Doddala said.

At a time when millions of Americans both own smartphones and play the lottery, this new tool makes sense, Cha said.

"We are providing a free service and digitalizing it," he said. "It's like creating a game off something that already exists."

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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