Lottery woes are fewer on second day Computer glitches continue in new AWI system

200 units out of service

Monday's sales were 13 percent below average

August 21, 1996|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF

Maryland lottery players and sellers yesterday reported a lessening of the computer problems that beset them Monday, but some of the pink computers continued to work erratically or not at all.

About 200 of the almost 3,800 new lottery terminals statewide remained out of service on Automated Wagering International's second day on the job. AWI, a lottery contractor with a troubled past, began running the state's $1 billion-a-year lottery business Monday.

Maryland lottery officials "continue to be optimistic," said spokesman Carroll H. Hynson Jr. "I feel we're doing fairly well at this point, based on the kind of technology we're dealing with."

He declined to say whether the state would pursue fines against AWI as a result of the disabled terminals. Lottery sales Monday were an estimated $300,000 -- or 13 percent -- below average, probably due to problems related to the AWI takeover, Hynson said.

AWI officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The company won the Maryland contract when it promised to do the job for half the price of the previous vendor, saving the state $50 million over five years.

Based in Atlanta, AWI is no stranger to questions about its work. This year, the firm was fined by the Minnesota Lottery for late software, and later fired by the Arizona Lottery for poor performance.

The computer glitches in Maryland do not appear to be nearly as severe as those in Arizona, where software glitches created billing problems and paralyzed the entire system for hours at a time on occasion.

In Maryland this week, reporters have been able to find terminals that could sell and validate tickets for different games, including keno.

At Whitty's Spirits and Delly in Towson, co-owner Ellen Dorenfeld said she was able to sell lottery tickets more easily yesterday, partly because the terminal was working better and partly because she was more accustomed to operating it.

Still, she said she lost two customers when the machine inexplicably froze for a short time.

In Baltimore, at Southwest Discount Liquors on Washington Boulevard, cashier Judy Mullins also reported improvement. "It's been pretty good this morning," she said of the lottery terminal.

At the High's convenience store on the same road, cashier Michelle Schuman said her terminal "seemed to be working a little bit better," but she continued to experience baffling problems.

She said the machine took five minutes to process one sale -- a transaction that should take seconds. "By the time the ticket came out, the customer had left," said Schuman.

A lottery terminal at a 7-Eleven store on Forest Drive in Annapolis worked properly yesterday when a reporter purchased a ticket. The morning before, a clerk had turned would-be players away because he did not have the pass code to activate the machine -- a fairly common problem Monday.

Some businesses were not so lucky. Mo and Faty Bouhmad, owners of Taki's Restaurant and Carry Out in Fells Point, turned players away for the second day in a row. Their machine refused to work at all, even though a lottery technician spent three hours trying to fix it Monday.

"I am very angry. I am losing my customers. I am losing money," Mrs. Bouhmad said.

In Howard County, Harry Hinkle, owner of Columbia Liquors, said he did not know from customer to customer if his lottery machine would work. "It just ate a keno play slip," he said.

A West Baltimore liquor store owner reported an unusual problem with a keno monitor, a television screen that is supposed to display winning numbers. The monitor displayed an incorrect number, although the lottery terminal itself had the correct one, said Hillel Schwartzman, owner of Kreis Super Discount liquor store.

The glitch bothered customers, as well as himself, he said. "I lost confidence in the lottery because this is part of my livelihood, and I have no recourse."

Pub Date: 8/21/96

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