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Technology glitch plagues Connecticut Lottery

Oct 19, 2004, 11:04 am

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Connecticut Lottery

What a Connecticut Lottery Corp. spokeswoman described as a "hiccup" in a ticket sales computer system may have cost the state and its lottery agents tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales Monday.

The computer glitch left Connecticuts 2,800 lottery agents without operating ticket terminals for more than 10 hours during the morning and early afternoon Monday.

The problem wasnt corrected until about 2:30 p.m., which meant that thousands of customers were unable to buy tickets for Mondays midday daily lottery drawing. It was the most serious and lengthy failure in the statewide computer system that controls the lottery terminals that several long-time agents could ever recall.

Diane Patterson, spokeswoman for the quasi-state lottery agency, said lottery officials were unable to calculate Monday how much the computer problem cost the state in lost ticket sales.

She said part of those losses could be made up through additional sales for the evening drawing.

Lottery agents in the New Haven region said their losses included far more than just their normal 5 percent commission on lottery ticket sales.

"You dont just lose revenue from the (lottery terminal) machine," said Gerry Katz, owner of the Shell Food Mart on New Havens Willow Street for the past 22 years.

"People who come in for their tickets normally buy other items in the store," Katz explained, estimating he lost hundreds of dollars Monday on potential sales of non-lottery goods.

Carl Canizares, owner of the C&A Market on the Boston Post Road in Orange agreed.

"Its a big part of your business," Canizares said of the drawing power of daily lottery sales.

Patterson said Mondays problem cropped up after the quasi-state agencys computer vendor, Scientific Games International, made a routine test on the system late Sunday evening.

"The test went great," Patterson said. The problem apparently occurred after the vendor tried to switch the system back to its normal operational mode. "When they did switch over back to our regular system..here was a hiccup," Patterson said.

Patterson said the glitch occurred sometime between midnight Sunday and 4 a.m. Monday when the remote lottery terminals at some stores across the state were scheduled to return to operation.

Lottery agents were forced to turn away hundreds of customers who routinely buy their daily tickets in the morning for the midday drawing.

Katz said many customers who normally also play the Instant game also failed to buy tickets for that because, without operational terminals, they wouldnt be able to get an immediate payout if they won.

"People were almost more annoyed that your lottery terminal wasnt working than when your pumps are out of gasoline," lamented Katz. "This is a tough time for this to happen when gas if more than $2 a gallon," he added.

Patterson said the lottery corporations computer experts initially expected to have the system up and running by early afternoon, but the problem wasnt fixed until later than expected.

Ticket agents said they were initially assured the terminals would be back in operation by mid-morning and then by noon and that they were repeatedly forced to disappoint customers who returned at those times to buy their tickets.

According to Patterson, the daily games "Advanced Action" feature did allow customers to buy tickets for Mondays midday drawing as early as last Thursday. But she said most daily players buy their tickets the morning of the drawing.

Patterson said the lottery has had "periodic system glitches"in the past but that those problems are usually fixed quickly.

"This is unusual for us," she said of Mondays extended system failure.

She said late Monday afternoon that lottery officials still hadnt received a detailedexplanation of what went wrong with the system.

According to Patterson, sales for the midday daily drawing form only a portion of the lotterys normal sales of $1-2 million a day for all its games.

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