A lightning strike at a control center put more than two-thirds of the terminals selling Pennsylvania lottery tickets out of commission for almost four hours Wednesday evening, which officials said would certainly mean reduced sales.
The lightning struck an online vendor facility in the Harrisburg area at about 4:25 p.m., Pennsylvania Lottery security director Jim Morgan said. The bolt damaged control equipment for a high-speed data line that allows the lottery machines to operate in convenience stores, at newsstands and in other locations, Morgan said.
About 5,500 terminals, 69 percent of the approximately 8,000 total, were affected, officials said. The drawing of the lottery numbers in Harrisburg was not affected, and neither were sales of instant-winner tickets.
The terminals, most of which were in western and eastern Pennsylvania, were unable to sell tickets until the problem was corrected at about 8:21 p.m., state Department of Revenue spokeswoman Stephanie Weyant said.
"Of course, if our retailers are down for any extended period, there will be an impact on sales," Weyant said. She said the outage occurred during what is typically a period of high sales, since many people buy tickets during lunchtime and after work.
Weyant said there have been occasional problems in the past, but she could not recall an outage affecting so many vendors and for such a long period.
The lightning strike also demolished a tree outside the control center of Scientific Games, the Pennsylvania Lottery's online vendor, which manufactures, installs and maintains terminal networks and the central computer system, Morgan said.