NH: Lottery still not without a glitch

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News - July 4, 2000

Lottery still not without a glitch By KATHRYN MARCHOCKI Union Leader Staff

Wayne Marshall saw people tear lottery tickets up and hurl them in his wifes face, turned hundreds of players away because he couldnt sell them tickets, and estimated hes lost about $3,000 in sales since Saturday.

His Lakes Region market is just one of many having problems since the state Sweepstakes Commission began its switch to a new lottery ticket provider Friday night. "Im absolutely livid," said Marshall, who co-owns Freedom Market in Freedom with his wife, Dot. "This is not $3,000 out of my pocket. This is $3,000 out of the states pocket. All we get is 2 percent out of the gross, which barely pays us to do the work. This is money that should be coming into the states coffers for education," Marshall, 54, said yesterday. The states Sweepstakes Commission executive director admitted some glitches but said he was "not aware of any major problems." Marshalls machine didnt work until 3:45 p.m. Sunday, two hours before closing time. He was selling tickets for 1= hours yesterday until he realized his machine was dropping a number on the tickets and printing defective bar codes. "I have no idea how many tickets we sold that people think may win them some money that are absolutely worthless," Marshall said. He estimated he has turned hundreds of lottery players away since Saturday morning, many coming across the border from western Maine to play Powerball. The lottery commission initially planned to suspend ticket sales until 3 p.m. Saturday to complete the conversion to its new ticket provider, Autotote, with regional offices in Connecticut. Less than half the states 1,184 terminals were working by 6 p.m. Saturday and glitches still plagued hundreds of others through Sunday.

Forty-one terminals remained out of service yesterday and many convenience and variety store owners complained of technical problems with the new, bright-yellow computers.

Some wont say if tickets are winners or have paper jams. Others could cause carpal tunnel casualties by forcing clerks to punch numbers in by hand because the machines wont scan them. Mohammed Afzal sells about $1,500 in lottery tickets on a typical Saturday at his Neighborhood Variety at 2626 Brown Ave. in Manchester. But his terminal didnt come on until 10:30 p.m., too late for the Powerball drawing. "I had zero sales," Afzal said. His terminal ran smoothly until about 1 p.m. yesterday when a paper jam forced him to discontinue lottery sales. He estimates yesterdays loss in lottery sales to be around $200. "This is a very busy location and I am losing a lot of business," he said. "It affects our store sales, too, because when they cash their tickets, they have the money to buy cigarettes or soda or something."

He figures he lost $300 to $400 in spin-off store sales Saturday and $50 more yesterday. State liquor stores on interstate highways are popular places to buy lottery tickets, particularly on holiday weekends. But the liquor store on Interstate-93 north in Hooksett hasnt been able to cash in on any sales because its machines havent worked since they were installed. "They havent worked yet. They were supposed to come up on July 1, but apparently they arent up and running yet," said the manager, who would not give her name. She would not comment on how much the store lost in lottery sales. Employees at the state liquor stores in Salem and on I-95 in Portsmouth would not comment yesterday when asked if their machines are working. Sweepstakes Commission Executive Director Rick Wisler said strong lottery sales yesterday may make up for any losses experienced during the weekend conversion. Average lottery sales for the computer-ticketed games  Powerball, Tri-State Megabucks, Win Cash and the daily numbers  for Saturday and Sunday are $200,000 and $60,000 respectively, he said. The lottery had $50,000 in sales Saturday and $85,000 Sunday, he said. Mondays typical sales are $85,000, he said. The lottery had $128,000 in sales by 4:45 p.m. yesterday, he said. "Because of the strong sales (yesterday), Im not sure yet whether we are actually talking about a loss or not," Wisler said. Scratch ticket sales figures wont be available until tomorrow, he said.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 04, 2000

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