Inside the hypersecure room where Powerball millionaires are made

Updated 1:45 PM ET, Thu March 28, 2019

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Tallahassee, Florida (CNN)In a small studio in the bowels of the Florida Lottery headquarters building in Tallahassee, two little tornadoes of balls bounce merrily around inside two blinking bright blue machines. In an instant, some of the balls will pop up from the melee and roll down to a neat metal rack, and by the power of gravity and the even hand of chance, a new Powerball millionaire will be made.

It looks simple, but every move leading up to this moment has been painstakingly, precisely planned. Every ball has been weighed with gloved hands, every machine tested and selected at random from among several identical machines stored in a coded, sealed vault. You can't take pictures during the Powerball drawings, but there are security cameras everywhere. Across the country at the Multi-State Lottery Headquarters in Clive, Iowa, someone is sitting at a monitor watching every move in this room.
What, you thought this was a game? There's millions at stake every week. That's not game money. That's lottery money.
A lottery employee displays the final jackpot estimates just minutes before the Powerball drawing.

The forbidden vault

To understand the complex ballet of tight security protocols and tireless auditing that makes a fair Powerball draw possible, you first need to understand some lottery-level bureaucracy.
Powerball is a nationwide game run by the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), but is typically drawn and broadcast here, in Tallahassee, which means it shares a space with Florida's own state lottery games. It also means that the law enforcement division assigned to oversee Florida Lottery security needs is also responsible for providing security for the Powerball drawings.
The two unused machines in the vault, ready to go in case of an emergency.
On Powerball nights (that's Wednesdays and Saturdays, for all you infrequent gamblers), the path to the pageantry starts in a small, unassuming little room with white walls. Only a few people are allowed into this room, but you can peek inside through two large, thick windows. This is the vault where the Powerball machines are kept, shrouded in heavy black covers until it's time to load them up for the show.
    It takes three separate people to open the door -- a lottery security agent, a representative from MUSL, and an independent auditor. Technically, that's more people than it takes to launch a nuclear missile.
    Lucky numbers

    4: The number of Powerball machines working at any given time. Two are randomly chosen for each drawing.

    69: The number of white balls in play, from which five are drawn

    26: The number of Powerballs in play, from which one is drawn

    $100: The cost to make one Powerball

    $9,500: The value of a full set of balls used in one drawing

    80g: The weight of one Powerball, give or take a few tenths of a gram

    44: The number of states that offer Powerball tickets, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

    $1.57 billion: The highest jackpot, which was split between two winners in 2016

    Ron Cave, the director of security for Florida's Department of the Lottery, explains what happens next.
    "As soon as the door is opened, I get an email, and the deputy director of security gets an email letting us know the vault has been opened," he says. "Then the randomization process can begin, to choose what machines and what sets of balls are going to be used for the draw."
    There are four numbered Powerball machines in total, as well as four sets each of the 69 regular white balls and 26 red Powerballs. They're rubber, and each cost $100. The balls are weighed and inspected about once a year, and replaced roughly every two years.
    "No one knows what machines and what sets are going to be used before this process," he says. The process by which they are randomly selected is one of many tightly kept lottery security secrets.

    The order of the balls

    After the machines and the balls have been selected, the equipment is rolled into the studio for a few tests and drawing rehearsals. The balls are carefully placed into the clear chutes of the machine in numerical order, and none of them are ever touched directly by human hands -- anyone handling the equipment is required to wear gloves.
    "Once the machine is activated, it's completely automated," Cave says. "There is no more human interaction with the process."
    It may seem incredibly analogue, but Cave says that actually makes the process more secure. There's very little concern that someone can hack into the system and somehow change the outcome when the results are decided by a bunch of balls blowing around in a bowl.
      Plus, that's just more fun to watch than a computer.