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NJ Lottery officials still investigating cause of massive outage

New Jersey LotteryNew Jersey Lottery: NJ Lottery officials still investigating cause of massive outage
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The exact cause and circumstances of a five-day outage that blocked nearly half of New Jersey's lottery retailers from selling printed tickets like Pick 3 and Mega Millions earlier this month are still a mystery, but a few determinations are unanimous.

The blackout, although anomalous, was unacceptable, may have been detected sooner and should have been handled better, state officials and executives from Northstar New Jersey, the group responsible for the lottery's sales and marketing, said at a meeting Thursday.

"It's very clear that this incident did not meet the expectations that any of us have for the partnership that Northstar and IGT have with New Jersey Lottery, and IGT takes full responsibility for what's happened. There's no excuse for it," said Tim Simonson, senior vice president of lottery management services at International Game Technology, or IGT, one of the three organizations that make up Northstar.

An investigation into the outage is ongoing, but officials traced it to an upgrade over the Aug. 2 weekend to the retail network's printer system. The lottery was set to introduce a new set of games that Sunday, called Fast Play, which are printed tickets about 8 inches long. The lottery's other printed games — called draw games — are about 3 inches long and have smaller fonts. Printing the new tickets required an upgrade to the printer system linked to the state's 7,220 retailers.

Although the lottery and International Game Technology tested the new software to replicate the live system with "no problems" that Friday night, about 200 retailers called the lottery's help desk on Saturday to report problems, executive director Carole Hedinger said. That many calls is not an unusual number and officials did not assume a widespread problem, she said. Then about 500 calls came in on Sunday, and officials realized it was more severe than originally thought.

Hedinger said 43 percent of the state's retailers, or about 3,100, were unable to print tickets. By Monday engineers got it down to 12 percent, and by Wednesday the whole network was back up.

Hedinger did not notify the rest of the commission of the issues until that Monday. She called "the communication process very poor, and I take most of the blame for that on our side." She also noted the lapse in identifying the extent of the problem sooner.

But the bottom line was spared. Hedinger said sales for that weekend were "higher than the week before, even when you take out the new game," but she did not provide figures.

"Sales did not appear to suffer," she said, adding, "If we got lucky, we were lucky it happened on a slow day instead of a busy day."

Hedinger and Northstar officials at the meeting all said that they had never seen a glitch of this kind.

The outage adds to the struggles Northstar has had since taking over the lottery's essential functions two years ago. The group — comprised of International Game Technology, formerly GTECH; Scientific Games; and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System — has missed its income projections the first two years of the contract and slashed its outlook for the third, which started last month.

Facing criticism of those shortfalls, which mean less money back to the state than budgeted, state officials have pointed to a brisk expansion of retailers and a significant investment in technology as other notable achievements. But the outage and response to it disappointed acting state treasurer Robert A. Romano, who called a meeting of lottery officials after the incident, a treasury official said.

"He expressed his surprise at the extraordinary breakdown, particularly given what we all thought and had seen as an extremely robust system of checks and protocols. He was frustrated by the lack of timely and accurate communication about the extent of the problem, and his opinion, at least at the time of the meeting, was that the remediation effort had been too slow and inadequate," said Roger Cohen, Romano's liaison to the lottery panel. "The treasurer does expect that appropriate measures will be taken to make sure that this problem doesn't repeat, that service is not interrupted again, that public confidence is restored and, of course, the integrity of the games is always maintained."

Northstar officials assured the commission that steps were taken to identify any future issues sooner and said it would not happen again. The 15-year contract includes provisions for the state to be repaid for any losses, but no determination on that will be made until the investigation is complete.

Later in the meeting, the commission unanimously approved a redesign of the draw game Powerball, whose lagging sales have contributed to Northstar's income shortfalls.

The new game will increase the sizes of the jackpots, but also the odds of winning them, from one-in-175 million to one-in-292 million. Although it will be harder to hit the big jackpots, the odds of winning other prizes will get better. Those non-jackpot prizes will also increase, most notable Powerball's third prize, which will increase five-fold, from $10,000 to $50,0000.

The new Powerball begins Oct. 7.

NorthJersey

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9 comments. Last comment 1 year ago by Number Boss.
Page 1 of 1
sully16's avatar - sharan
Ringleader
Michigan
United States
Member #81740
October 28, 2009
40299 Posts
Offline
Posted: August 20, 2015, 9:34 pm - IP Logged

Many Businesses lost big bucks, hope it stays fixed.

Did you exchange a walk on part in the war ?

For a lead role in a cage?

 

                                            From Pink Floyd's " Wish you were here"

    Bondi Junction
    Australia
    Member #57242
    December 24, 2007
    1102 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: August 21, 2015, 12:31 am - IP Logged

    This is why I like subscriptions, plus buying subscriptions generates additional revenue for states.

    We all get a lot out of lotteries!

      Avatar
      Simpsonville
      United States
      Member #163189
      January 22, 2015
      667 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: August 21, 2015, 10:44 am - IP Logged

      This is why I like subscriptions, plus buying subscriptions generates additional revenue for states.

      Do states in Australia offer discounts for buying a years worth of subscriptions?  Massachusetts does, received all three confirmation tickets and enjoy weeks free for doing this.

        Saylorgirl's avatar - Lottery-065.jpg
        Indiana
        United States
        Member #129225
        June 13, 2012
        546 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: August 21, 2015, 3:18 pm - IP Logged

        This is why I like subscriptions, plus buying subscriptions generates additional revenue for states.

        I much prefer the revenue go to the local businesses in my community and NOT kept by the state.

          Avatar
          Simpsonville
          United States
          Member #163189
          January 22, 2015
          667 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: August 21, 2015, 3:45 pm - IP Logged

          I much prefer the revenue go to the local businesses in my community and NOT kept by the state.

          Don't worry Saylorgirl...bought two weeks of Powerball with Powerplay in New Albany, IN yesterday.  They don't call me lottery guru for nothing.  Haven't been to Indianapolis in a long time, so this will be a nice visit..lol!

            pickone4me's avatar - 021414tvlies zpsa453b327.jpg
            Wisconsin
            United States
            Member #104962
            January 23, 2011
            1075 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: August 22, 2015, 10:23 am - IP Logged

            Rather suspicious.

            Trump 2016!

              cbr$'s avatar - maren
              Cordova,Al.
              United States
              Member #104482
              January 15, 2011
              4867 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: August 22, 2015, 11:05 am - IP Logged

              Lack of communication is a under statement here so say the least. Most people who run a business realize that if you get 100 calls complaining about with the same issue smell the smoke . Warning! This lottery waited until it became a 3 alarm fire before it took action. Since it happen on a week end maybe they don't want to chance their plans, therefore waving it off. Think about it. If you smell smoke, I believe either you go check it out or send someone else to check and see where it coming from. Do you just have to see the flame before you take action. Thinking of...think about it!

                rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
                Texas
                United States
                Member #55889
                October 23, 2007
                5588 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: August 22, 2015, 11:19 am - IP Logged

                Lack of communication is a under statement here so say the least. Most people who run a business realize that if you get 100 calls complaining about with the same issue smell the smoke . Warning! This lottery waited until it became a 3 alarm fire before it took action. Since it happen on a week end maybe they don't want to chance their plans, therefore waving it off. Think about it. If you smell smoke, I believe either you go check it out or send someone else to check and see where it coming from. Do you just have to see the flame before you take action. Thinking of...think about it!

                According to the article, about 200 retailers called on Saturday, which was not an unusual number, (which I would believe considering how many retailers there are selling lottery tickets). At that time they had no reason to suspect anything really wrong. When they received 500 calls on Sunday was when they realized there was a real problem.

                I imagine they will learn from this, as the old saying goes, "hindsight is 20-20".

                CAN'T WIN IF YOU'RE NOT IN

                A DOLLAR AND A DREAM (OR $2)

                  Number Boss's avatar - Lottery-037.jpg

                  United States
                  Member #157327
                  July 15, 2014
                  289 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: August 23, 2015, 9:34 pm - IP Logged

                  I believe they should check the integrity of the game drawings.  This state has been experiencing more repeats in the last two years than normal.  Something smells fishy.  I really hope they check into that.