Thanks to a disconnection, courtesy of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., lottery ticket sales across the state were halted for more than an hour early yesterday afternoon.
A telephone company spokesman said the culprit appeared to have been within a coaxial cable at C&P's central office in Columbia. For whatever reason, five of six phone lines leading to GTECH's lottery computer operation in Columbia were rendered inoperable, he said.
The glitch caused about 1,700 of the 1,850 lottery computers statewide to "crash" shortly after noon. The lines were patched about 45 minutes later and the machines went back on line about 1:05 p.m.
"We couldn't sell for a little while, but it was no big deal," said Craig Button of Button's Liquor in Timonium.
At Baker's Liquors on Kent Island, the instant scratch-and-win games were offered as an alternative. "People who really wanted to gamble had that option," said Wayne Wicker, a sales clerk at Baker's.
Elyn Garrett of the State Lottery Agency said the disruption was the first significant problem for the lottery since GTECH took over computer services last month. She emphasized that the computer company had nothing to do with the dilemma.
Lottery officials said they were thankful the problem did not arise a week ago, when a record $20 million Lotto payout had the computers working overtime. This week's jackpot has reached $1.5 million.