TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Lottery officials say they don’t anticipate problems as a multimillion-dollar upgrade of a vending system goes into place this month.
But rather than press their luck, players are urged to buy earlier than normal as the new system is expected to require the main office to go offline for several hours April 15.
“The vast majority of the upgrade will occur overnight on the 15th, causing minimal inconvenience,” lottery spokeswoman Keri Nucatola said. “Still, we are encouraging our frequent players who would normally buy tickets on that morning to get their tickets ahead of time.”
The change was approved by lawmakers as part of a $54 million line item in the state budget last year.
Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell told members of the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee last week that the system conversion remains on time and on budget.
“It will take approximately 10 hours to make the switch-over if everything goes correctly,” Poppell said during a confirmation hearing before the committee. “Generally, what that means is when we complete operations, somewhere around midnight, we would shut the old system down, and we would come up live, hopefully, at 10 a.m. the next morning.”
Las Vegas-based International Game Technology is overseeing the conversion.
The legislative budget item provides for up to 2,500 vending machines, replacing equipment and software almost 15 years old, bringing in a new communications network and improving security and anti-fraud measures.
“The new system will include improved technology and retailer enhancements that will create a better overall player experience,” Nucatola said. “One example of this is the new self-service ticket checkers. These machines can be used by players to check their tickets for winners on their own, reducing the need to wait in line and adding an additional layer of security.”
Poppell estimated the new gaming system has required the replacement of 130,000 pieces of electronic equipment and training for 40,000 retail employees statewide.
The change comes as the lottery has seen record growth, topping $6.7 billion in sales in the past fiscal year, which ended June 30. Poppell said sales are on pace for $7 billion in the current fiscal year. Money from the lottery is used for such things as the Bright Futures scholarship program.
Poppell said because of the state’s rapid population growth, play is anticipated to continue growing. However, he noted there could be some impact if a bill to create a lottery in Alabama, now before that state’s Legislature, is successfully put before voters.
“Although players from, say Alabama, might stop crossing the lines to come over and play, if we continue to maintain the trust of Florida citizens and operate in open, honest, transparent ways and provide good games, that’s the best path forward for us,” Poppell said.
There are no plans to offer games online, which is prohibited by state laws.