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Power outage has California lottery running on back-up generators

Jan 6, 2008, 12:56 am

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California Lottery

The California lottery disclosed Saturday night it was using emergency, backup electricity generators indefinitely to run online gambling and other games statewide due to a power outage.

Lottery Director Joan Borucki assured gamblers that operations would remain "normal" but said "full conventional power to all buildings may not be restored for some time."

The lottery was able to conduct Saturday night's Super-LOTTO Plus draw of winning numbers, for instance, officials said.

The outage, which began Friday afternoon, continued into Saturday night, making it the longest such occurrence that anyone could recall befalling the lottery since games were launched in 1985.

Lottery headquarters is located in the capital city in Sacramento County — one of the regions Schwarzenegger declared a disaster area Saturday night due to storm damage. Complications tied to the outage prevented restoration of regular power to a portion of the sprawling headquarters structure in a northern, industrial suburb.

The policy-setting Lottery Commission announced it was moving a meeting scheduled for Wednesday to another location due to conditions at headquarters.

Gambling analysts say any developments, such as this, tend to shake players' confidence in lottery operations.

But lottery spokesman Al Lundeen said that "everything essential, at this point, is operating as it should and we expect that to continue."

The problem comes as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's aides revealed Saturday he has renewed interest in leasing the lottery to a private contractor for a hefty, multibillion-dollar upfront sum as a major step in filling the state's current $14 billion budget gap. Sales lag behind per-capita performances of many other state lotteries.

Schwarzenegger administration officials are working toward the governor's State of the State address Tuesday and his subsequent pitch of a proposed 2008-09 budget to the Legislature in the face of a $14 billion budget deficit.

"No decisions have been made on the lottery as we are still developing our policy agenda for next year," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. "But the governor still firmly believes that licensing the lottery is in the best financial interest of the people of California."

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