The Lotteries Commission is upgrading its computer system linking retailers throughout the country to the commission’s central computer.
The new set-up includes 855 new terminals for Lotto outlets, a new gaming system and a new hardware platform.
IT director Martin Cassidy says the terminals and software are from the current US-based supplier Gentech. The commission chose seven new Digital Alpha 4000 servers as the hardware platform because the Gentech software runs on either Concurrent or Digital VMS. Five of the servers will go into the commission’s Wellington headquarters and two into an Auckland site.
The new terminals will be installed in more than 600 Lotto outlets in November and the software upgrade will take place in February next year. The new terminals which are supplied by Gentech through its Wellington office are paid for by the Lotteries Commission. The current system, also by Gentech and running on a Concurrent Micro-five platform, was installed when Lotto was created 10 years ago. Cassidy says the system which is currently used for Lotto and Telebingo are made up of GENTECH off-the-shelf packages which are used by more than 70 lotteries organisations around the world.
The new systems are also off-the-shelf and were chosen because they offer increased flexibility and reliability and had extremely high integrity says Cassidy.
The commission is aiming to have the technological flexibility to considerably develop its business over the next five years. This will result in more customer choice in how games are delivered and promoted in-store, where they are delivered and how they are paid for.
“We don’t currently sell over the Internet or through television but this new environment will give us the option of doing these types of things.”
The commission has been closely monitoring developments in interactive and virtual-reality technology and electronic gaming devices such as those being progressively introduced in the United States, Canada and Australia. GTECH is currently using satellite technology to provide the communications network for some lottery organisations overseas.
Says commission chief executive David Bale, “Five hundred thousand young people have become adults since the commission began in 1987. For those young adults, it’s a world of ATMs, EFTPOS and a PC on nearly every desk. They prefer to receive their information electronically,”
Bale says the key is to upgrade the system without upsetting, irritating or giving incorrect information to customers.
“We know we’ll have succeeded if on February 16 next year, the planned completion date for the project, they ask what all the fuss was about. In many ways, swapping the computer system will be more difficult than the original start up of the Lotto business - there’s no way we can shut down the system for a while if things are proving difficult,” he says.