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Lottery to shut down for computer upgrade

Online ticket sales will be suspended for six hours Monday; it will not affect the Lotto drawing.

Sales of online lottery tickets will shut down for six hours Monday during the first major computer upgrade in the lottery's 12-year history.

Between 6 a.m. and noon Monday, players will not be able to buy tickets for Florida Lotto, Mega Money, Fantasy 5, Play 4 or Cash 3.

"Basically, we're going to shut our system down," Lottery Secretary David Griffin said Friday.

The sale of instant tickets _ the scratch-off kind _ will continue during the upgrade. Yet all winners of any lottery prizes will be unable to claim them from 6 a.m. Sunday until noon Monday.

In March, lottery officials will begin replacing the 11,400 sales terminals statewide with new, slightly smaller machines. About 300 terminals will be installed each week until December.

Monday's delay in sales and the new terminals are necessary so the lottery can switch to a new, more sophisticated computer system. During the delay, data from the existing system will be loaded into the new system.

After the new terminals are installed, the changes will let the lottery offer more new games on a routine basis, officials said. Some games may be customized for certain parts of the state, such as promotions aimed at Tampa Bay players only.

The cost of the upgrade is included in the state's five-year contract with Automated Wagering International, estimated to earn that company about $150-million.

The upgrade will not affect the Florida Lotto drawing _ with an estimated jackpot of $30-million _ scheduled for 11 p.m. today. Nor will it affect other game drawings scheduled for Sunday and Monday nights.

After the lottery introduced twice-weekly Lotto drawings last October, ticket sales between October and January were up $66.8-million from the same period in 1998, officials said. The 41 percent increase has yielded $25.4-million for Florida public schools.

Players with questions about the upgrade can call (800) 752-9352 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.