(SHNS) – Officials from the Massachusetts Lottery will begin making the rounds next week to each one of the agency’s retail partners to hand out information to help prepare for what the Lottery’s director called “a once-in-every-two-decade event.”
On the morning of April 14, the Lottery will launch an entirely new IT system to connect the more-than-7,500 new Lottery agent terminals already operating around the state with the Lottery’s central host system. If all goes well, Lottery officials said, retailers and players should not notice any significant changes.
“Upgrading this wasn’t a choice, it was something that absolutely had to be done,” Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney said this week of the year-plus-long project to upgrade the Lottery’s old blue box in-store terminals to newer machines and to bolster the system those terminals connect to.
He described the scope of the Lottery’s “Technology Modernization Program” as “literally the entire system” and told members of the Lottery Commission that the rollout will be “a once-in-every-two-decade event.”
The Lottery is planning to stand up a command center on April 14 to make Lottery officials and experts from the company that led the systems update, International Game Technology, on hand to help resolve any problems that crop up with the rollout.
“There will absolutely be bumps in the road on April 14 and thereafter,” Sweeney said. “But they should be bumps in the road the nature of which that we can mitigate internally and hopefully will not impact either our customer base or our retail agent base.”
Starting Tuesday, officials from the Lottery will visit each retailer to pass out flyers detailing what merchants can expect on April 14 and in the early days of the new system. Paul Mandeville, the Lottery’s IT director, said the flyer will be just a page or two since retailers won’t need to make significant changes as long as the rollout goes smoothly.
The new IT system is expected to go live by 8 a.m. on Sunday, April 14.
“We have successfully replaced all of the agent terminals at over 7,500 agent locations throughout the commonwealth over the course of the last year,” Sweeney said. He added that the new machines are “working 100 percent appropriately.”
The Lottery said 7,910 of the old “blue box” terminals that took up lots of space in stores and went out of service routinely have been replaced at 7,328 different retail locations.
In October, when the Lottery was selling roughly 8,000 Mega Millions tickets each minute for a $1.6 billion drawing, Sweeney and Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said that having the new machines in place meant that the state could sell even more tickets and wouldn’t have to turn customers away because a terminal was broken.
“We could have seen people walk away because machines would have broken and we wouldn’t have been able to fix them fast enough,” Goldberg said in October.
Sweeney said the new machine and new computer system will not only help the Lottery limit lost sales due to terminal outages, but will also allow the Lottery to stay on top of the latest technology in the industry, especially if the Legislature decides to allow the Lottery to sell its products online.
“Upgrading the host system and surrounding infrastructure is going to allow us to adapt to new technology and it will allow us to support, hopefully, continued revenue growth particularly if there are any laws or regulations that change and allow us to further expand in the marketplace,” he said.
At a Lottery Commission meeting Wednesday, Sweeney thanked commissioners for their engagement in with the project and said the decisions the commission made — including the decision to move the Lottery to Dorchester from its longtime headquarters in Braintree — have left the Lottery in good shape for the future.
“A lot of the votes you’ve taken, particularly in the last year, really have set the foundation for the Lottery for the next decade,” he said. “Whether it is the physical moves or the technological upgrades that are occurring, you are positioning the Lottery on a very, very solid foundation.”