Colorado's lottery tickets go online'at checkout counter

Colorado's lottery tickets go online'at checkout counter

LAN lets Lotto-playing shoppers buy the tickets themselves

Steele's Market customer Steve Young orders a Colorado Lottery ticket from a Player Express terminal as Darla Feist scans his groceries.

By Claire E. House

GCN Staff

Milk, bread, diapers, lunch meat, Lotto ticket. That'll be $19.41, please.

Colorado Lottery customers can buy select lottery tickets along with their groceries through in-lane terminals the agency is rolling out to 80 supermarkets and other retail establishments across the state.

The Player Express terminals, from GTech Corp. of West Greenwich, R.I., extend GTech lottery systems in multilane retail lottery agent stores. Multilane stores typically sell lottery tickets from a single main terminal at a customer service desk.

'It's a lot more convenient for the customers so they don't have to go through another line to get their tickets,' said Deron Feist, manager of lottery agent Steele's Market in Fort Collins, Colo. 'And it's very helpful for us on big Lotto days because then we have more terminals to spread out on.'

The market's main terminal still handles all state lottery ticket transactions for its three games'Lotto, Cash5 and Scratch. The in-lane terminals handle Lotto and Cash5 quick picks only; if customers want to select numbers, they must still visit the service desk to keep the lines moving, said Stephen Dides, GTech product marketing manager.

The Player Express terminals sit at checkout lanes much like credit and debit machines do. As the cashier scans groceries, customers punch up a ticket order on the terminal. The order travels over the internal GTech LAN via an RJ-45 connection to a small system controller called a polling processor. The LAN runs at 2.4 Kbps under a proprietary protocol.

The polling processor connects via an RS-232 link that transmits the transaction to the lottery data center over dedicated phone lines leased from US West Inc. of Englewood, Colo. Throughout the country, GTech's retail systems transmit data several ways: over phone lines, voice and data lines, or wireless connections.

At the center, data arrives through a GTech brand multiplexer and sends transaction data to redundant VAX 710 minicomputers from Digital Equipment Corp. running VMS. The minicomputers prompt a verification and send a signal back through the lane's Player Express terminal to a GTech AccuDot 9 dot-matrix printer, which spits out the ticket. The transaction takes four seconds.

The cashier retrieves the ticket and scans its bar code, adding its price to those of the rest of the goods. Because it is illegal in Colorado to buy lottery tickets with credit cards, purchasers must pay with cash, check, debit card or money order.

GTech charges state lotteries a percentage of total sales to run their systems, Dides said.

Scratch and win

The Colorado Lottery chose the technology to help it increase ticket sales for its so-called online Lotto and Cash5 games, which made up 40 percent of fiscal 1998's $375 million in sales vs. Scratch, which made up 60 percent, marketing director Dan Noreen said.

'We'd like to bring that up to 50-50 without losing volume on our scratch-off games,' he said.

GTech, which supports 28 of the United States' 38 lotteries, developed the technology eight years ago to help lotteries increase sales, improve customer satisfaction and broaden sales among retailers beyond the popular convenience store outlets, Dides said. It had no U.S. takers until 1996, when the Colorado Lottery expressed interest.

The agency ran a two-store test in 1996, which raised sales by 25 percent. The test received positive feedback from retailers and customers, and the lottery decided to deploy the terminals throughout the state at a few key retailers, Noreen said.

The only issue that came up was one of security: Retailers were concerned about employee fraud, so the lottery worked with GTech to modify the system to track sales by cashier, Noreen said. Neither the lottery agency nor Steele's Market has received negative feedback about the terminals, according to Noreen and Steele's Market president Russ Kates.

Customers at the six Steele's Markets, which have had the technology for about a year, have generally said they frequently intend but forget to buy tickets, and the terminals help them remember, Kates said.

GTech plans to finish rolling out 800 Player Express terminals to the 80 stores by the fall, Dides said.

Player Express accommodates magnetic-stripe and smart cards, but Colorado has not chosen those options. The cards would hold pick data for regular players to swipe at the in-lane terminals, Dides said.

Colorado distributes its lottery proceeds as follows: 10 percent to its Natural Resources Department's State Parks Division, 40 percent to the Local Affairs Department's Conservation Trust Fund and 50 percent up to $35 million in 1992 dollars to Natural Resources' Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund. Any extra goes to the state General Fund.


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