Software bugs discovered in new system
The executive director of the South Carolina Lottery apologized to players Wednesday, a week after software glitches caused some lottery tickets to not be paid correctly.
Ernie Passailaigue, who heads the lottery, said a "myriad of problems" surfaced last week but have since been fixed. He said the problems stem from the installation of a new software system.
Some game tickets from the lottery's former game contractor didn't scan properly, he said, and some convenience-store workers didn't know how to scan the tickets or turn on the machines. The system's help line, he said, was "flooded."
"Did we have problems? Yes," he said. "Were the problems corrected? Yes."
Passailaigue said the lottery had to write 2.3 million lines of computer code for the software changes, which now allow the state's lottery outlets to sell games 24 hours a day. The conversion involved 16,000 new pieces of equipment, 360,000 feet of cable and the use of two satellites, Passailaigue said.
"A conversion, dealing with the volume we have here, a billion-dollar business, is no easy feat," he said. "So when you flip the switch from one system to another, there are going to be problems."
Although there was a report of some losing tickets being scanned as winners, Passaiaigue said the lottery has never paid for a non-winning ticket. He said the software didn't recognize some types of winning tickets produced by the state's former gaming contractor, Scientific Games, but the winners were eventually paid by the lottery.
"There was a certain grouping of tickets that would not pay properly," he said. "In other words, it would say, 'ticket is not a winner' and then when the clerk scanned it again it said, 'ticket already paid.' In that group of people who thought they had a winner, that was all resolved by us."
Passailaigue said he didn't know how many problems with tickets were reported, in part because the help line flooded and some may not have been able to get through to report problems.
He said although the lottery trained more than 5,500 retailers across the state in less than a month, "the people there two weeks ago are not there today." Some employees, he said, didn't know how to turn on the machines, while others didn't know how to properly scan the tickets.
He said some programming errors were responsible for some of the problems.
"They weren't epidemic, and they didn't cause us any great consternation," he said. "For our players used to buying a winning ticket and getting paid, it caused a little disruption in their schedule, and we apologize for that. We sell security and integrity. Right now it's operating pretty well."
However, Kenneth Cosgrove of Greenville, vice president of the state Association of Convenience Stores, said the games are still processing noticeably slower than before.
"There's been some glitches but you kind of expect that with a conversion of any kind," he said.
Passailaigue said the new, 10-year agreement with the lottery's new contractor, Intralot, will save the state $1.2 million per year.