The District's new daily numbers game will begin on Monday, the D.C. lottery board decided yesterday, even though almost all the locations where bets can be placed are concentrated in Anacostia and Northeast.
Only about 50 to 60 computer terminals used to produce numbers-game tickets had been installed and connected to a central computer by C&P Telephone Co. when the nationwide phone strike started early last week, lottery officials said.
This left the board with the dilemma of whether to begin the game with only about 20 percent of a fully operational system in place or to wait for weeks until terminals throughout the city were ready.
Yesterday the board decided in a 3-to-0 vote to go ahead, with members arguing that the city needs the $1 million in revenues it would be expected to receive through Sept. 30--the end of the fiscal year--from the partially operational game.
"We understand there is concern on the part of those who are not getting terminals. We would ask those people to consider the needs of the District of Columbia," lottery board Chairman Brant Coopersmith said before the vote yesterday. "We sympathize with them, but there is not much we can do."
rts of the city will get hooked into the system just as quickly as the phone company can connect the terminalsike were to end now, Coopersmith said, the system might be at a fully operational level of 300 terminals by the end of September.
Coopersmith said there are few or no agents hooked up to the system in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4, constituting the western part of the city. This was because the phone company does its hookups by grids and started in Anacostia, he said.
To play the numbers game, a bettor goes to an authorized agent with an operational computer terminal and selects three numbers. Each evening Monday through Saturday there will be a televised drawing of numbers to determine the daily winner. Winning tickets can be taken to any agent to be verified for a payout.
A straight bet--selecting the correct three-digit number--has a payout of $500 for each $1 bet. The odds of winning that bet are 1,000 to one, according to P. Leonard Manning, chief executive officer of Lottery Technology Enterprises (LTE), the contractor running the numbers game.
Eventually the drawings will be televised on WDVM-TV (Channel 9), but that station will not be ready for the telecasts for another 25 days. In the meantime, the board decided yesterday to enter into a 25-day contract with Channel 32, the Howard University station, to televise the drawings nightly at 8.
The numbers game was supposed to have started on July 18, but got caught up in a swirl of controversy over the lottery board's decision to award the contract to LTE. The board first awarded the contract in March, but losing bidders challenged the award in court and then Mayor Marion Barry persuaded the board to cancel the award and reconsider.
LTE was selected again in June, but not before the estimated time of start-up for the game was pushed back to Oct. 15. Since then, the board and LTE have tried to speed up the process, hoping to start the game with about 100 terminals in place this month and to bring it up to a fully operational level of 300 by Sept. 15.
Though the game is starting with only 50 to 60 machines, board members yesterday gave LTE high marks for doing its part to get the game on line earlier than it had to under its contract.
"This is the quickest start-up in the history of the industry," Coopersmith said after the vote yesterday.
Board members Lillian Wiggins and Jerry Cooper also voted yesterday to start the game on Monday. The other two members were absent.