Bid for lottery contract protested Loser GTECH says terms offered by rival don't meet requirements set by state


GTECH Corp. is protesting its apparent loss of Maryland's lucrative lottery contract to a competitor that offered to do the job for half the price.

In a letter to the state Tuesday, GTECH charged that a rival firm, Automated Wagering International, failed to meet various requirements set by lottery officials.

Among its complaints, GTECH alleges that AWI's lottery tickets do not have enough colors on them and that its proposed computer plant in Baltimore lacks the required number of parking spaces.

GTECH also contends that the state is wrong to presume that the most favorable price to taxpayers is the lowest one.

"I really can't say if there is any merit to [the protest] or not," Maryland Assistant Attorney General Andrea D. Johnson said yesterday. She said officials have not had time to evaluate it.

AWI officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Last week, Georgia-based AWI stunned state officials and GTECH by offering to supply and maintain Maryland's lottery computers for about $40 million over five years -- almost $50 million less than GTECH's bid.

State officials are now evaluating the proposal to make sure that it meets their specifications. If it does, the contract could be awarded to AWI within the next two months.

It is not unusual in Maryland for a losing bidder to file such a complaint. In fact, bid protests are practically standard procedure in the highly competitive lottery industry, where the war over contracts is waged from state to state.

"These guys spit at each other all the time. When one loses, the others really tend to lash out," said Paul Doocey, senior editor of International Gaming and Wagering Business magazine.

Stephen G. White, a GTECH spokesman, said his company's allegations are serious. "It's not nitpicking. Either you're compliant or you're not compliant" with bidding requirements, Mr. White said.

"This initial protest highlights and underscores some of the many factors, shortcomings and shortcuts AWI has taken to make its irresponsible price workable," he said.

GTECH, the Rhode Island-based lottery giant, has held the state's lottery contract since 1991.

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