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Ongoing IT Work a Major Focus for State Lottery

Established in 1984, the California State Lottery makes technology and modernization an integral part of its landscape. Major updates to gaming have been completed this year and others are contemplated for the future, plus other potentially transformational internal-facing IT improvements.

The California State Lottery headquarters building.
Fast Facts

Leadership: California State Lottery Director Alva Vernon Johnson was appointed in June 2019. He was previously director of intergovernmental affairs for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for nearly three years; and before that was executive director of government affairs for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians for more than a decade. Prior to that, he spent about 10 years in California government service dating to the mid-1990s when he was fiscal and policy analyst for the Legislative Analyst’s Office — followed slightly later by time as legislative liaison for the Lottery. Chief Information Officer and Deputy Director of IT Services Jennifer Chan has been the department’s technology leader since January 2021, during more than a decade in California state government. Her previous roles include serving as agency chief information officer at the California Department of Food and Agriculture from February 2019-December 2020; and as chief of the Technology Governance Division at the Employment Development Department from July 2015-February 2019. Find her Industry Insider — California One-on-One interview here.

Budget: During the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year ending June 30, the Lottery expects to take in $8.5 billion in lottery sales, pay $5.7 billion in prizes and have $1.8 billion in total resources due to the education fund. In FY 2023-24 starting July 1, the Lottery expects to take in $8.5 billion in lottery sales, pay $5.7 billion in prizes and have $1.8 billion in total resources due to the education fund. (All numbers are rounded.) Find its budget here in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May Revision of his proposed 2023-24 FY state budget.

Total staff: 1,080 positions. Of those, 130 positions are in its Information Technology Services Division (ITSD).

Like so many state entities, the California State Lottery has a unique creation story. A standalone entity that’s not under a larger “umbrella agency,” the Lottery was created in 1984 with the passage of Prop. 37, which established a statewide lottery and stood up the California State Lottery Commission — a five-person body appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate — to run it. The goal of Prop. 37, the California State Lottery Act of 1984, was to provide supplemental funding for public education, and at first it required 50 percent of the Lottery’s total yearly revenue go back to the public in prizes — and at least 34 percent of total revenue benefit public education. No more than 16 percent of its revenue then could be used for administrative costs. The act was changed in 2010 to give the Lottery “flexibility to pay out more money in prizes and reduce the administrative cost limit to 13 percent of total revenues,” according to its current proposed budget.

Not surprisingly, technology plays an important part in the Lottery’s work. Asked about key technology achievements during the past three years, Chan told Industry Insider California that during her time as CIO, more inwardly focused improvements include implementing an Enterprise Refresh Plan; doing process automation and routing for California Public Records Act (PRA) requests; implementing softphone capabilities; automating Lottery’s background check service; making improvements to gaming system ticketing; putting Microsoft Windows Defender secondary endpoint protection in place; implementing Sentinel secondary security event and incident management; and implementing Defender for Cloud. Lottery also decommissioned the retailer website. During the same time period, roughly two-and-a-half years, Lottery also rolled out GameTouch (GT) 20/28; implemented CrowdStrike and Varonis; eliminated the Partner IIRA ticketing system; did a QFX switch replacement; integrated Teams/LifeSize; transitioned from KBOX to ServiceNow; and upgraded its Aurora Navigator gaming system and its Epicor 10 system.

During the last six months, ITSD published its 2023-2026 IT Strategic Plan; and, at the beginning of the year, its Balanced Scorecard, to align with its “mission of providing supplemental funding to education.” During the last year, ITSD completed a “user-friendly Americans with Disabilities Act compliant” feature, Where the Money Goes, aimed at improving transparency on how and where schools benefit from Lottery funds. A new Scratchers Quiz Social Share feature lets Scratchers players share Scratchers quiz results; and a new Are My Numbers Lucky? tool lets players track how lucky their numbers have been across previous drawings.

Lottery has a number of IT initiatives that are active, in progress or on the horizon in the next 12 months. These include a request for proposals for work on its public-facing website; modernization of its human resources presence; automation of electronic documents; and work on an internal control system, network resiliency and a network hardware refresh. The Lottery may also migrate its website security management services; implement a license plate reader; migrate its business intelligence business analytics to the cloud; work on ITSD data strategy and data fulfillment; and do an enterprise resource planning analysis. Also contemplated are a customer relationship management solution analysis; market research analysis for a gaming contract; and a game change for the Mega Millions game.

Having recently wrapped the GameTouch instant ticket vending machine rollout, as Chan told Industry Insider in February, she offered several takeaways/best practices from that experience:

  • Ongoing engagement, communication, and project oversight activities were key to the process.
  • Close collaboration and communication with the gaming system vendor was vital, particularly around potential “shipping and manufacturer delays/impacts, supply chain issues, and installation plans,” the CIO said.
  • Lottery’s Customer Acceptance Team (CAT) did “an excellent job of not only identifying issues but being proactive in following up on them for full resolution.”
  • Officials also identified a need for “more focus on the (user interface) UI aspect of the project,” Chan said. This included a need to have UI designers on the vendor side to have a better understanding of Lottery’s needs; and more time to offer graphical user interface (GUI) input and feedback in development and to ensure GUI gets “more fully addressed during the requirements process.” It also included the need for establishment of a “more robust decision-making process for UX/UI requirements with clear roles and responsibilities for ownership/accountability” and improvements to detailed requirements for wireframes.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.