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GameTech puts bingo ‘readers’ back on track

Oct 1, 2002 8:09 AM

   Most of GameTech’s electronic bingo readers have been put back into service after they were approved for operation by gaming regulators.

   This past weekend, Texas regulators allowed GameTech’s electronic bingo “minders” to return to service.

   They were shut down last week as a precautionary measure while company officials and state regulators confirmed the integrity of the units.

   The security of GameTech’s bingo units came into question after the Nevada Gaming Control Board last week revealed an investigation into the misuse of electronic bingo units by a GameTech software engineer.

   In an apparent suicide, the engineer, Brett Keeton, last Friday reportedly killed himself by leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

   Nevada regulators said Keeton had introduced a software glitch into the bingo systems of 16 Las Vegas casinos that would allow him to play many more bingo cards than he paid for.

   So far, it is unclear how Keeton triggered the machine to give him extra cards, and how much jackpot money he gained as a result. Sources say he intentionally avoided cashing jackpots that would require an IRS W-2 statement.

   In the wake of the bizarre bingo probe, GameTech shut down its bingo units in Las Vegas, Texas and Mississippi. The fixed bingo minders account for about 13 percent of the company’s annual revenues.

   “We are pleased that the Texas regulatory officials have given us approval to reactivate our fixed base units and we appreciate the speed and cooperation in which they worked to test the system,” said Clarence H. Thiesen, GameTech CEO. “While we were confident that the misuse was limited to fixed base units in the Las Vegas area, we wanted to satisfy officials in Texas that the system as modified was sound.”

   In Las Vegas, regulators initially shut down 3,475 electronic bingo readers, but allowed all 3,193 hand-held “portable” card minders to return to service after it was determined they weren’t susceptible to the glitch. Only 282 fixed-unit bingo consoles were out of service while regulators and GameTech engineers tried to fix the software gaffe.

   GameTech makes two kinds of electronic card minders that keep track of numbers called so the player can play more cards at one time.

   One version is hand-held and requires the player to enter the numbers as they are called, while the other is a fixed-base machine that is informed electronically of the bingo numbers.

   GameTech spokesperson Cheryl Walsh said the company hopes to get approval to use the fixed-base minders again sometime this week.

   She added that GameTech engineers had isolated the glitch and are now working to prove to regulators that it’s been fixed.