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Massachusetts Lottery to replace aging lottery terminals

Massachusetts LotteryMassachusetts Lottery: Massachusetts Lottery to replace aging lottery terminals
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For 18 years, an unremarkable blue machine has been a fixture at corner convenience stores, its tired keys accepting millions of bets from players hoping a lucky string of numbers — a kid's birthday, an old address — will just this once bend the rules of probability and change everything.

But, with casino gambling coming to Massachusetts, the state lottery is looking to replace the 8,500 aging blue terminals and the massive computer system that processes nearly $5 billion in bets a year. Lottery officials hope the sophisticated technology in newer terminals will help them hang onto loyal customers tempted by glitzy slot machines and table games.

"Nobody is still using their personal computer from 18 years ago, or even five years ago — except us," said Beth Bresnahan, the lottery's executive director. "The fact that we've been able to stretch the life of these machines for so long is, frankly, amazing."

Indeed, outside of Massachusetts, only the South American nation of Colombia still uses the 1990s-era lottery terminals. To keep its machines in service, the lottery cannibalizes broken ones for parts. There's even a place at Massachusetts State Lottery headquarters in Braintree that repair technicians refer to as "the MacGyver room."

The machines are called the GTech ISYS, the ubiquitous but woefully obsolete lottery terminal that is finally set to be retired after dutifully spooling out 79 miles of tickets and receipts since 1997.

The terminals have not hampered sales at one of the nation's most successful lotteries. Massachusetts residents spent $736 per capita on lottery games last year, far more than residents in any other state, according to La Fleur's Magazine, a trade journal. In 2014 the lottery distributed $974 million in local aid to towns and cities.

But the stash of spare parts is running critically low. More important, the advent of casino gambling in Massachusetts has presented the lottery with direct competition for the first time.

Newly elected Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, whose office oversees the lottery, said she is determined to preserve lottery profits and local aid — and believes new terminals will be a vital tool in that effort.

"We've managed to do very well with these machines, but it's no longer economically viable to maintain them," Goldberg said. "With casinos coming in, we cannot be complacent."

The lottery is soliciting bids for new terminals that will be easier to reprogram remotely, so it can quickly push out new games and promotions. Modern computers will also allow officials to better monitor how different games are selling in different areas — spotting, for example, a drop-off in sales near a new casino.

And the lottery wants to introduce a loyalty card system for frequent players, something that is impossible on the current terminals.

New terminals may even allow players to submit their lucky numbers using a smartphone application. The technology for such mobile gambling already exists and is popular in Europe. Here in Massachusetts, the app could only be used inside a store with a lottery terminal, as state law prohibits gambling from home.

"We're seeing more and more states testing online and mobile games," said Terry Rich, director of the Iowa lottery and president of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. "It's less expensive than the terminal on the counter, and it's the way Millennials shop."

Rich suspects mobile gambling could one day make the countertop lottery terminal itself obsolete. That, however, means lotteries will have to design systems that, for example, verify users' ages or set spending limits to control addictive gambling.

But Rich said lotteries are effectively businesses competing for consumers' money and must evolve or risk "ending up like the post office."

When casino gambling was introduced in Iowa in 1991, lottery profits dipped by about 12 percent, then tumbled again in 1996 and 1997 after slots at racetracks were legalized. Each time, Rich said, the Iowa lottery clawed back within several years, which he attributes in part to new products and additional marketing.

"You've got to innovate and keep it fresh so people don't get bored," Rich said. "There's no doubt casinos and lotteries both go after the same discretionary dollars. Now, [Massachusetts] is going to have to market a little harder, work a little harder."

The lottery is also soliciting a second contract to replace the computer systems that power the network of blue terminals and run the betting operations.

Officials hope the costs of both jobs will come in under $65.5 million and expect bids from the industry's three largest companies: GTech S.p.A., an Italian company with its US headquarters in Rhode Island; Las Vegas-based Scientific Games; and Greek firm Intra-lot SA.

Gtech and Scientific Games declined to comment, citing the open bid process; Intralot did not respond to a request for comment.

Old as they are, the Gtech terminals inspire some affection. Harish Chopra, owner of VIP Convenience in Cambridge, said nearly 50 percent of his revenue comes from lottery sales processed through the machine. He can work the keys almost without looking, his fingers guided by a decade of muscle memory.

Still, Chopra understands why the state wants to replace it. On recent drives to Connecticut and New Hampshire, he couldn't help noticing how newer terminals in those states use thermal printing instead of the ancient dot matrix technology in the ISYS terminal.

"It's like everyone else got iPhones and we still have flip phones," Chopra said.

What to do with the old ISYS terminals when they are replaced? Chopra has a suggestion.

"I'll keep it as a souvenir," he said. "Maybe I'll give it to my kids and they can sell it in 50 years as an antique."

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Boston Globe

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10 comments. Last comment 2 years ago by Think.
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Avatar

United States
Member #161539
December 3, 2014
328 Posts
Offline
Posted: February 27, 2015, 9:34 am - IP Logged

Well there will be new RNGs coming ... if you won pretty good with the old machines ... who can say what the future will be with QPs?

"Officials hope the costs of both jobs will come in under $65.5 million and expect bids from the industry's three largest companies: GTech S.p.A., an Italian company with its US headquarters in Rhode Island; Las Vegas-based Scientific Games; and Greek firm Intra-lot SA."

Which company will have the better RNGs ??? ... or do they all get that part of the machine from another manufacturer.

CW

    cbr$'s avatar - maren
    Cordova,Al.
    United States
    Member #104482
    January 15, 2011
    4940 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: February 27, 2015, 12:15 pm - IP Logged

    "A place in Massachusetts State Lottery headquarters which the repair technicians refer to as "the MacGyver room." Green laugh   I Agree! it is time to retire the terminals.

      JoeBigLotto's avatar - Lottery-049.jpg
      melbourne , florida
      United States
      Member #121140
      January 3, 2012
      185 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: February 27, 2015, 12:45 pm - IP Logged

      Well masssachusetts is not the worst state with aging lottery terminal on my list . The worst state on my list is Oklahoma state they were talking the last time how poorly their state lottery has been performing they even cancelled their pick4 draw because they are not making money but they still use lottery machine from the fifties go figure their brains are still in the fifties they can't see the light and invest in state of the art lottery machine .and all their draw is $1 and no straight/box for fifty cents each how stupid can this lottery officials in Oklahoma be. Am a truck driver and I travel all 48 states and am not excited at all playing in Oklahoma because there lottery machine sucks. Texas across the state line from Oklahoma conducts pick4 draw four times per day with state of the art machines Oklahoma cancelled the only one draw they conduct per day so why the hell do we even need Oklahoma for I wish Texas will one day invade and occupy that state .

        DoctorEw220's avatar - alien helmet.jpg
        Yinzer Country, PA
        United States
        Member #4067
        March 18, 2004
        2741 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: February 27, 2015, 3:09 pm - IP Logged

        It's about time.

        I've redone my website.  Go to www.dr-ew.com.  I kept a lot of the old stuff, and I've added some new stuff.  Look for more new stuff in the coming weeks.

          Bondi Junction
          Australia
          Member #57242
          December 24, 2007
          1102 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: February 28, 2015, 4:52 am - IP Logged

          Don't forget you can play Massachusetts  Megabuck Doubler by subscription from anywhere in the US, by phone.

          We all get a lot out of lotteries!

            Avatar
            Simpsonville
            United States
            Member #163189
            January 22, 2015
            678 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: February 28, 2015, 7:08 am - IP Logged

            That is so true myturn; I have a subscription for Megabucks Doubler bought here in KY.  As for the other subscription services I have my brother get them for me in my home state (MA).  I hate the 1961 outdated law that prevents playing other lotteries across state lines such as Powerball, Mega Millions or Lucky 4 Life.  Wish the DOJ would turn a blind eye to that law like they have recently in other laws.

            There was a interesting article on CNN's website about lottery winners with most of it devoted to Jack Whitaker.

              JoeBigLotto's avatar - Lottery-049.jpg
              melbourne , florida
              United States
              Member #121140
              January 3, 2012
              185 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: February 28, 2015, 11:48 am - IP Logged

              That is so true myturn; I have a subscription for Megabucks Doubler bought here in KY.  As for the other subscription services I have my brother get them for me in my home state (MA).  I hate the 1961 outdated law that prevents playing other lotteries across state lines such as Powerball, Mega Millions or Lucky 4 Life.  Wish the DOJ would turn a blind eye to that law like they have recently in other laws.

              There was a interesting article on CNN's website about lottery winners with most of it devoted to Jack Whitaker.

              That is because jack Whitaker is the biggest loser of all lottery winners. He wore black all over plus a black cowboy hat when he won over $300,000,000 on Christmas day. Go figure the enormous power of black holes. Anyway I saw him dressed that way on TV and I said to myself this will be another hit on YouTube biggest lossers. He lost his grand daughter lost his wife, took half million dollars to strip club and left that in his SUV outside while he got a lap dance.well if it was me I will actually be sitting on that brief case while I get my lap dance. An the dancers better play by the rules by not going below my butt. And his name jack Whitaker means Winner Takes All B4 winner losses all. Bash

                Bondi Junction
                Australia
                Member #57242
                December 24, 2007
                1102 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: February 28, 2015, 12:34 pm - IP Logged

                - She was a mother of three living in a small apartment and working four jobs. And then, as if in a fairy tale, she won her state's lottery last year. But the story doesn't have the happy ending you might expect.

                She didn't do anything overly extravagant after the $1.3 million got slashed in taxes. She bought a house, got a new wardrobe at the Salvation Army, cut work down to just one job and invested the rest.

                And then came the phone calls: promises, marriage proposals, accusations, threats. People who used to volunteer to help her do things wanted money for their trouble. Family members, she says, tried to run her life, and control her money.

                "Sometimes I wish I could change my name and go somewhere and hide," said the woman, who asked not to be identified to prevent further attention.

                It's fun to think about what you would do if you played lottery numbers that brought in millions of dollars. But, disillusioning as it may seem, big winnings can come with big costs, especially because of the greed of others, experts say.

                 

                Winning is not the problem, its the públicity that causes the difficulties. This is why anonymity should be allowed to all winners.

                We all get a lot out of lotteries!

                  Avatar
                  Simpsonville
                  United States
                  Member #163189
                  January 22, 2015
                  678 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: March 1, 2015, 9:46 am - IP Logged

                  That is because jack Whitaker is the biggest loser of all lottery winners. He wore black all over plus a black cowboy hat when he won over $300,000,000 on Christmas day. Go figure the enormous power of black holes. Anyway I saw him dressed that way on TV and I said to myself this will be another hit on YouTube biggest lossers. He lost his grand daughter lost his wife, took half million dollars to strip club and left that in his SUV outside while he got a lap dance.well if it was me I will actually be sitting on that brief case while I get my lap dance. An the dancers better play by the rules by not going below my butt. And his name jack Whitaker means Winner Takes All B4 winner losses all. Bash

                  JoeBigLotto:  Just watched Jack Whitaker on Youtube like you said.  There he was, just as you said, decked out in black on presentation day for the money.

                    Think's avatar - lightbulb
                    Marquette, MI
                    United States
                    Member #20541
                    August 20, 2005
                    705 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: March 4, 2015, 7:13 pm - IP Logged

                    Well there will be new RNGs coming ... if you won pretty good with the old machines ... who can say what the future will be with QPs?

                    "Officials hope the costs of both jobs will come in under $65.5 million and expect bids from the industry's three largest companies: GTech S.p.A., an Italian company with its US headquarters in Rhode Island; Las Vegas-based Scientific Games; and Greek firm Intra-lot SA."

                    Which company will have the better RNGs ??? ... or do they all get that part of the machine from another manufacturer.

                    CW

                    Yep, Michigan had Scientific Games until about 1989 and then switched to GTECH.  The easy picks did seem to switch then.