Keeping the lottery running New contract: Lawmakers wary of costly delays and snafus during July transition.

June 06, 1996

STATE LAWMAKERS are rightly concerned about the State Lottery Agency's transition to a new computer system next month, when AWI Inc. succeeds GTECH Corp. as the contractor running the lottery games. AWI, after all, just lost its Arizona lottery contract over allegations of poor performance. Will that happen here?

The legislature's fiscal analysts indicated there might be problems. But the evidence turned out to be superficial at a hearing this week. It badly misled state lawmakers, who thought (incorrectly) that AWI was far behind schedule in implementing its computer system by the July 22 transition date.

To set the record straight, the state agency and AWI agreed on a new set of deadlines in December. So far, AWI has lived up to that timeline. That's a positive sign. The company is in a critical testing phase. If there are troubles, the lottery agency should discover them in a few weeks -- in time to order corrections.

AWI claims its Arizona woes were due to being "sandbagged" by local politicians and the company that lost the lottery contract there, GTECH. That's the version told by AWI's CEO. Naturally, GTECH officials tell a different story. So does the Arizona lottery agency. Sadly, the legislature's fiscal analysts failed to enlighten lawmakers about where the truth lies.

The important thing isn't to assess blame over the Arizona debacle but to make sure nothing goes wrong here. Much is riding on this $53 million contract, including AWI's future.

Lottery officials were severely chastised by legislators for failing to make contingency plans. The breadth of General Assembly concern left no doubt the agency must re-double efforts to assure a seamless takeover. There can be no foul-ups that might endanger this $410 million a year money-maker for the state.

Controversies always surround lottery contracts. The two main bidders, GTECH and AWI, are bitter foes. So far, the transition in Maryland has gone smoothly. We expect state officials to see that there are no shenanigans.

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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