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May 26, 2000

Tropical Gaming bit by the Y2K Bug

If you are one of the many Belizeans who got locked into the Lotto habit, the date December 29th, 1999 will remain indelibly etched in your dream book. That is the night that the familiar sound of the Lotto machine cranked up for the last time…and for the ensuing five months the little numbered balls have lain motionless. So what happened? Enquiring minds, as they say, want to know, particularly since the Lotto went to sleep with an unclaimed jackpot of $87,500 sitting under the pillow. While officials of Tropical Gaming have declined to appear on camera, spokesman George Swift did speak to News Five via telephone and told us that the answer is not all that complicated. Basically, says Swift, Belize’s Lotto was one of the few legitimate victims of the Y2K bug. Their outdated computers and vendor terminals, which are vital to run the entire operation, began to show their faults as early as October first since they are programmed to project information for three months in advance, which is the life of each winning ticket. The real problem arose, according to Swift, when the new custom-made replacement machines proved to be in short supply. Canadian Banknote, the company which supplies the system, says it can only provide a maximum 25 vendor units at this time, hardly enough to make Lotto sales worthwhile. They are negotiating to try and reach some sort of compromise in order to get the games rolling and Swift says things should be sorted out soon. But even if they are, don’t look for the ping-pong balls to start popping before July. In the meantime the company’s operating license has been renewed, the office on Bishop Street continues to sell the instant scratch game and the eighty-seven-five? It’s still sitting in the bank, says Swift, just waiting for Lotto’s luck to change.

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