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New Lottery Machine Expected to Boost Sales

June 30, 2005 — After a year of struggle, a little light is finally shining on the V.I. Lottery. "In a few minutes me and them balls will be doing the electric slide," said Gilmore Estrill, director of operations for the V.I. Lottery.
At Thursday's drawing, lottery officials unveiled a new machine that is part of the campaign to revamp the lottery's image and get more people interested in buying tickets and becoming dealers.
David Michand, president of Smartplay International, the company that designed the new machine, says the Virgin Islands has a unique game. While most drawings use about 50 balls, the V.I. Lottery machine stirs up 34,000 balls for drawing.
"The old machine accomplished the same thing, but this is much more visual. You can see it really mixing," said Michand.
The machine itself cost about $115,000 and took six months to build, according to Michand. During the drawing, a ball from the large chamber is released at the same time as a ball from the small chamber. Together, they tell the number of the prize and the dollar amount awarded.
There are 645 prizes at each drawing, including the $175,000 jackpot, a $45,000 prize, a $20,000 prize, and a $12,500 prize.
The rollover was revamped last year, and a new jackpot structure was put in place in December 2004. Paul Flemming, executive director of the V.I. Lottery, says the new machine and the restructured prize prospectus mean good things for the organization—namely that the lottery is no longer struggling. (See "V.I. Lottery to Resume Drawings, Up Jackpot.)
"We want to make certain the V.I. Lottery becomes a model," said Flemming. "We want to say where the money is going."
He says the lottery is now able to donate money to the mandated programs, including education, textbooks, summer employment for youth, the educational initiative fund and the pharmaceutical fund for the Department of Human Services. Flemming says since December they've sent $1 million to those programs, with most of the money going to the educational initiative and pharmaceutical funds.
Kenneth O'Neal has been a dealer for V.I. Lottery for 25 years. O'Neal says the last few years have been rough on the dealers, but that it's changing with the rollover and the new machine. "It's how I met my wife," said O'Neal. "She came to sell me a sheet of tickets, and I'm married to her today. That's the jackpot I won."
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