Computer glitch shuts down operation of state lottery system for 90 minutes

Cash In Hand game out of service most of the day

February 03, 1999|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

A computer glitch knocked Maryland's lottery out of commission for 1 1/2 hours early yesterday -- a rare, systemwide shutdown -- and the lottery lost one of its numbers games for much of the day.

Buddy Roogow, director of the state lottery agency, said it appears the shutdown was the fault of the contractor that operates the system, Atlanta-based Advanced Wagering International (AWI).

If so, Roogow said, AWI would be responsible for paying losses the state incurred.

Roogow said he expects losses to be small because the system was down from 5: 30 a.m. to 7 a.m., before many of the state's 4,000 lottery agents had opened for business.

"Sales are minimal at that time of the morning," he said. "We're talking about sales of several thousand dollars per game. [AWI] will be responsible for the loss of revenue, which may be $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000. I don't have that number yet."

Although the computer system was back up by 7 a.m. for the lottery's Pick 3, Pick 4, Lotto, Big Game and Keno games, it was 3 p.m. before players were able to buy tickets or cash in winning tickets for Cash In Hand.

Cash In Hand, for which drawings are held six days a week, generates $90,000 to $100,000 in daily sales and revenue of $45,000 to $50,000, Roogow said. AWI would be liable for lost sales during the time tickets could not be sold, he said.

Richard M. Haddrill, president of AWI's parent company, Powerhouse Technologies, said the computer glitch apparently occurred because of a human error in making programming changes related to the lottery's Keno game.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat who heads the House Appropriations Committee, said he is disturbed that sales were disrupted and is concerned about potential future problems.

He said he plans to ask the chairman of a subcommittee that oversees lottery operations to look into the company's performance.

"We can't afford shutdowns of the system that prevent the public from playing the games and generating revenue for the state," Rawlings said. "I just know we never had these problems several years ago when G-Tech [Corp.] had the system."

Rawlings was referring to the Rhode Island-based company that ran Maryland's lottery until 1996. G-Tech lost the contract to AWI, which was the low bidder on a five-year contract.

Roogow said the system operated by AWI has been down 164 minutes in more than 2 1/2 years since the company took over. He said most incidents were "very early in the morning, when there is almost no impact" on sales.

He said shutdowns before yesterday's were usually for a few minutes and no different from what other lottery vendors experience in other states. The longest the system was down previously was 44 minutes in 1997, he said.

Roogow said he feels AWI has done a good job running Maryland's lottery.

"I believe their performance has been excellent," he said. "They have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide the Maryland lottery with the systemic improvements that we've sought over the years to enhance our sales."

Haddrill said the company is proud of its performance in Maryland.

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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