Numerous glitches have popped up on the touch-screen devices that use satellite technology
LANSING, Mich. — The new generation of Michigan Lottery machines is giving some retailers fits as the devices sometimes go on the blink in this winter's harsh weather.
The state began replacing 11,000 older model machines last fall, and the conversion should be completed by month's end.
But unlike the old system, which used phone lines, the new one relies on satellite technology.
In snowy, windy weather, the newer machines sometimes freeze up, and retailers can't make sales during the down time, which they say has been for as long as an hour at a time.
Lottery officials say the problems go beyond the weather; they blame the situation on "glitches" in the satellite technology system. They say they are working to find solutions.
Meantime, many of the retailers are irked.
"It's a terrible terminal, it's so slow. I liked the old one 10 times better because the problems were easier to fix," said John Kenyon, owner of Luke's Gift & Sweet Shoppe at Oakland Mall in Troy. "I'm located in the middle of a mall, and sometimes I get huge lines because the new machine is six, seven times slower."
Mike Sawa, owner of Oak Liquor and Wine in Oak Park, one of the state's top retailers, says his two new terminals quit working for brief periods.
"Of course, I'm losing customers; people don't want to wait. And with this new machine, everything is slow," Sawa said.
Linda Gonzales, manager of JP's West, a Detroit bar and restaurant, said she's had problems with the new terminals, but normally they're resolved by a simple phone call to a Michigan Lottery technician.
But she said this week has been more troublesome, with the brutal weather. On Tuesday, the Club Keno machine froze and wouldn't accept bets.
"We had probably four (patrons) who just left," she said.
Many retailers are happy with the sleek, new terminals, which have touchpad screens, thermal images, laser printers and flat-screen TV monitors.
"Mine hasn't gone down, and I haven't had any problems," said Phillip Shouneyia, who owns Joslyn Market in Pontiac.
Lottery officials acknowledge that the situation is frustrating.
"While some of the problems are weather-related, not all of them are," said Andi Brancato, the agency's spokeswoman. "It's hard to pin down how many terminals may have been down at any one time because it's an intermittent problem," she said.
Brancato said technicians are trying to iron out the kinks so sales aren't interrupted.
"It doesn't appear we've had any significant negative (economic) impact at all because it's not like the retailers have been down for days," she said.
Last year, the Michigan Lottery had about $2.3 billion in sales.
Nick Matti, owner of Bee Bee's Liquor Store in Warren, processes a ticket for customer Jose Vas on the store's new touch-screen lottery machine.