ANNAPOLIS – Next year, Maryland lottery players will find a quicker, more streamlined process awaiting them when they purchase their lucky tickets. And Keno players will be able to cheer their picks on with virtual horse races.
The state lottery is moving quickly into the world of technology – providing touch-screen terminals to retailers, moving from out-dated phone service to satellite communications and virtual reality races – all due to the Board of Public Work’s approval of the lottery’s $180 million proposal on Wednesday.
Buddy W. Roogow, director of the Maryland State Lottery, said the impact on the average lottery player – to been seen by Aug. 1, 2006 – would be “huge.”
“It’s so modern and easy to use,” he said, with new features like a “Player’s Club” available to reward returning customers.
Retailers, who will receive training for the 4,000 new terminals in May, will need fewer steps to get lottery tickets into the hands of customers.
The terminals are attached to thermal printers, which the agency hopes to use for advertising on lottery tickets in the future. Also included in the proposal is the satellite telecommunication service with a backup, as opposed to the phone service currently used that is often shut down by storms and adds costs to the system.
Players of the traditional Keno would also see marked improvements when they glance at the screen to see computer-generated horses and racecars rounding the curves, betting on them as they would at the tracks themselves.
“We’re trying to find other games to attract the public,” Roogow said in response to a comment by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. about his administration’s inability to win General Assembly approval for slot machine gambling. The governor, who chairs the three-member Board of Public Works, expressed his admiration for the lottery plan.
“This is high technology,” the governor said. “This is serious stuff and the fact that it’s been done without controversy” is encouraging.
Roogow said, “We believe we’ve learned from the past,” such as a decade ago when the current contract was awarded.
In 1996, just prior to Roogow taking over as director, there was “a lot of difficulty and tension” between the competing companies – GTECH, which lost the bid this year, and Automatic Wagering Inc., which has since been subsumed by another company. “The transition was very difficult,” with legislative hearings held because lottery sales dropped, Roogow said.
To avoid that situation again, he said, “We were very careful.”
Roogow said the lottery agency hired outside consultants to help with the proposal. The company that won the bidding for the proposal, Scientific Games International, made a significantly lower bid than the only competitor, GTECH, and is currently in charge of Maryland’s lottery. Last year, $477 million of the $1.4 billion total lottery sales went back into the state budget. –