LAKELAND, Fla. — On its face, an instant lottery card wouldn't seem an example of high tech.
But the 22 layers of print, security and other features needed to produce a modern lottery card make it high tech indeed.
So tech was one of the themes celebrated Tuesday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new $15 million facility in Lakeland operated by the British-based International Game Technology (formerly known as Gtech).
"We aren't just tourism anymore. We aren't just agriculture. We're finally high tech," said U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, one of the speakers at the ceremony.
The 45,000-square-foot expansion to the IGT Lakeland facility, which opened in 2009, will boost employment by 20 percent by the end of 2021, said Jay Gendron, chief operating officer for lottery operations.
"They contribute to the high-skill, high-wage mission of the community," said Cory Skeates, president of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, among the several dozen attendees at the ceremony. "We've got an industry leader like IGT, and they could be anywhere they want to be. They chose Lakeland."
Since opening, employment in Lakeland has more than doubled to 250 full-time employees with an annual payroll of nearly $12 million, he said. The new facility was built to address the rising demand for instant lottery game tickets.
"Today marks an important milestone at IGT," Gendron said. "We're taking the next step toward our goal of dominating the market in the instant ticket space."
IGT prints tickets for lottery games in 40 U.S. states and across the globe, he told The Ledger in an interview after the ceremony. It has a 14 percent share of the U.S. lottery market behind industry leader Scientific Games in Las Vegas with 72 percent.
The Lakeland facility also prints for more than 50 countries, including most of Europe and North America.
Company officials also threw a belated Valentine to Ross and other civic officials.
"I know Lakeland is your (Ross's) lifelong home, and we're happy to be your neighbors," CEO Marco Sala said. "We chose to invest in Florida and Lakeland because it's an excellent location and a wonderful place for our employees to raise their families."
The new facility will make IGT more competitive in lottery-game products, increasing its printing capacity by 30 percent and giving it the ability to expand its customer base, Sala said.
"Instant tickets are one of the most popular lottery products in the world," he added. "This allows us to create exciting content with a sophisticated printing process."
IGT officials gave guests a peak at that sophisticated production process through tours of the new facility.
"We needed this space. We were on top of each other," said Richard Modawell, director of security, quality and compliance at the Lakeland facility and one of the tour guides.
Ticket production increased by 15 percent in 2016 and is projected to increase another 15 percent this year, he said.
The new facility has a 22-station printer capable of producing 48,000 tickets per minute.
Each station adds a new feature to the instant ticket, such as a different color, security measure or scratch-off component, Modawell said.
"The lottery tells us what it wants," he said. "We can do everything from soup to nuts."
Security is a big feature of the production and distribution process, Modawell said.
Computers and sensors monitor every ticket to ensure only the designated number of winning tickets are shipped to the customer, he said. If the system reports a single batch of tickets can't be accounted for, the entire production line shuts down until employees find the missing tickets.
"That doesn't happen very often," Modawell added.
Tickets are shipped in locked containers that aren't opened until they reach the customer, he said.
IGT is the global leader in gaming products, which also includes casino and video games, computer and mobile games and interactive systems, according to the company website.
For the third quarter of 2017 ending Sept. 30, IGT reported revenue of $1.2 billion, down 4 percent from the fourth quarter 2016 partly because of a 6 percent loss because of currency exchange rates. It had a net $804 million loss for the recent third quarter because of a $118 loss in currency exchanges and $714 million in other non-cash write offs.
For the nine months ending Sept. 30, IGT reported $3.6 billion in revenue, a nearly 8 percent decline from the same period in 2016.
At the close of trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange, IGT stock gained 40 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $27.59 per share. The stock opened the year trading at $27.32 per share.
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