AWI glitches largely fixed, lottery says Md. official confident Ga. firm can take over without further delays

Contingency plans in place

Company promises delivery of debugged software by next week

July 04, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The company that is scheduled to begin operating Maryland's lottery Aug. 19 has fixed the vast majority of the software glitches that forced a four-week delay of its takeover, a state lottery official said yesterday.

Edward R. Perry, deputy director of the State Lottery Agency, expressed confidence that Automated Wagering International Inc. of Atlanta would be able to take over from incumbent GTECH Corp. without further delays.

But he also said the agency has made contingency plans in case AWI's problems are not fixed.

Perry said the agency has arranged for GTECH to remain in place through Aug. 31. If necessary, he said, the lottery would negotiate a deal to keep GTECH here on a month-to-month basis past that date.

He said he has received assurance from AWI that a fully debugged version of the software will be delivered by the end of next week. The lottery will begin its own testing of the program July 15.

Perry said the agency should know "somewhere around the first week of August" whether AWI will be ready to take over on time.

A smooth transition is critical to the state's budget plans because the lottery is expected to generate $459 million in revenue this fiscal year.

Jerry Woods, AWI's operations manager in Baltimore, said he would "absolutely" guarantee that his company will be ready on time. He said the debugged version of its software will have been thoroughly tested at its facilities in Hackensack, N.J., before it is delivered.

AWI won the state lottery contract in November when its $53 million bid to run the games for five years came in at less than half the price proposed by Rhode Island-based GTECH.

Last week, AWI outraged legislators and unnerved vendors when it told lottery officials it would need to delay its scheduled July 22 takeover by four weeks because of software flaws.

Arizona fired firm in May

Concerns about AWI's ability to keep its promises had already been running high after Arizona fired the company in May, citing computer problems that led to interruptions in ticket sales.

It was in an effort to allay such worries that AWI and lottery officials invited a reporter for a tour of the company's operations center in a Southwest Baltimore industrial park.

The secure facility appeared to be almost ready to swing into active operation -- if the software is debugged. Technicians were running tests on ticket-dispensing machines, which were spitting out Pick 3 and Keno tickets without apparent problems under laboratory conditions.

Woods, the AWI operations manager, showed off a bank of three IBM RS/6000 computers, each the size of a large kitchen refrigerator. One can run the entire lottery network, while the other two are there as backups, he said.

He added that there is an identical bank of computers at AWI's facility in Lanham, providing added redundancy.

"Even if a bomb were to fall on this facility, there would be

continued, uninterrupted selling," he boasted.

28 flaws cited in tests

But bombs are not nearly as much of a threat to AWI's prospects as bugs. Perry, the state lottery official, said yesterday that the agency identified 28 items that needed correction after earlier tests.

He said they included both minor items and serious flaws, including one that froze the system if an invalid ticket was inserted. That one, he said, has been fixed.

Perry said he had been assured that all but five or six problems, some of them minor, had been resolved.

Neither he nor Woods could say whether any of the remaining problems was serious enough to threaten operations.

No Keno problems, they say

Perry and Woods could provide only sketchy information about the nature of the other flaws, but they said none of them affected the lottery's Keno games.

Neither do they involve the speed of dispensing tickets, said Perry, adding that the AWI network had been tested at a pace of 100,000 transactions within a minute and still managed to dispense tickets in less than four seconds.

GTECH spokesman Steve White said his company would continue to cooperate in making the conversion. "That's fantastic," he said dryly when told of AWI's progress report.

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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