CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An organization representing video lottery distributors and retailers is calling on the state Lottery Commission to use its licensing authority to block video slot machine manufacturer IGT from discontinuing the computer protocol that allows nearly 7,000 limited video lottery machines to communicate with the Lottery's central computer.
"We're saying, 'Lottery, you have an obligation to hold their feet to the fire," George Carenbauer, lawyer/lobbyist for West Virginia Amusement & Limited Video Lottery Association, said of requiring IGT to maintain the ICIS protocol through June 30, 2021.
Officials with the Las Vegas-based video slots manufacturer have notified the Lottery that it planned to discontinue the outdated protocol after 2015 -- effectively requiring video lottery operators to replace or upgrade more than 6,800 limited video lottery (LVL) machines in bars and clubs around the state.
After negotiations with the Lottery, IGT agreed to extend that deadline to the end of 2017.
That affects about 92 percent of the LVL machines currently in operation, with costs of upgrading or replacing machines estimated at between $20 million and $100 million.
"We believe that the crisis created by IGT's decision is entirely avoidable," Carenbauer said in a letter to the Lottery Commission. "The Lottery should simply insist that IGT continue the ICIS protocol both as a condition of IGT's continued licensure, and under the Lottery's authority to require any change in hardware of software to be approved in writing by the commission before its implementation."
However, Lottery Director John Musgrave said, under the law, LVL machine manufacturers can make changes to hardware or software, so long as they provide at least two years' advance notice to the Lottery -- as IGT has done.
Musgrave said IGT notified the Lottery late last year that it planned to quit using the outdated protocol -- currently in use only in West Virginia and Louisiana.