With a $76 million Powerball jackpot waiting Saturday night, some Horry County, South Carolina lottery machines broke down during the weekend.
A stroke of bad luck caused an Internet service provider not to recognize some lottery machines.
Larry Sanders said the machine at his Food Shoppe in the Red Hill section of Conway stopped connecting about 10 or 10:30 p.m. Friday. His store couldn't provide lottery tickets until shortly after 2 p.m. Monday.
The Powerball drawings are at 10:59 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays.
John Rieser got to witness several unhappy customers while working the 2 p.m. to midnight shift at the Food Shoppe on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
"It varied between resignation [and] slightly beyond irritated," he said.
"People were not happy campers."
About 65 percent to 75 percent of the customers wanted to play a game were after Powerball tickets, he said.
The machines were reconnected about 2 p.m. Monday, said Tara Robertson, spokeswoman for the S.C. Education Lottery.
Aside from Powerball, some local players lost at least three chances to win $500 in the Pick 3 game and $5,000 in the Pick 4 game at some machines.
Carolina 5, the only other game plugged into the Internet, didn't have a drawing Saturday or Sunday.
State lottery officials are still investigating how many machines were down and how much money wasn't gambled.
Scratch cards were still available, so not all usual sales were lost at the problematic locations, Robertson said.
However, scratch cards won't deliver $76 million.
The problem started with Spirit Telecom, an Internet service provider and telephone company owned by Horry Telephone Cooperative and about 17 other telephone companies that do business in South Carolina.
Locally, the lottery machines are hooked up to Verizon's and HTC's networks, but the problem stemmed from Spirit Telecom.
"We made a mistake," said W.J. Jordan, Spirit's executive vice president for Internet service providers and telephone companies.
The technical details are complicated, but in short, during a project Friday afternoon, Spirit Telecom accidentally made it impossible for its computers to recognize the lottery machines.
The error could have affected 163 lottery machines in Horry County.
However, Jordan said, his company did not receive a deluge of calls. Apparently, he said, most machines never went down.