CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The state Lottery Commission decided against revoking the licenses of two technicians who confessed to tampering with limited video lottery machines, but fined the men $1,000 each and placed them on six months' probation.
Kenneth Howell and Lawson Mangum, who work for Clarksburg-based Shafer Amusements, told commission members Thursday they "wired over" switches inside 10 of the company's video lottery machines.
The switches are connected to a hatch inside the machines. Each time the machine is opened, it sends an electronic notification to Lottery headquarters. That allows Lottery officials to know when and why technicians accessed the machines.
The games cannot be played while the switches are triggered. Howell and Mangum, who have each worked on the video lottery machines for more than a decade, said the switches are easily broken.
Bypassing broken switches is a quick way to get the machines back in operation, they told commissioners.
The Lottery Commission began investigating machine tampering earlier this year, when an inspector found one machine with a wired-over door switch. Investigators then checked each of the 7,432 limited video lottery machines in the state and found 12 more instances of tampering.
Ten of the machines belonged to Shafter Amusements. Kelly's Hot Spot II in Dunbar owned the remaining three.
Howell and Mangum acknowledged they did not follow Lottery guidelines but said the switches were redundant. They said there are other triggers inside the machines to notify Lottery officials when they are opened.
But both promised to never tamper with switches ever again.
"Sometimes you don't know you're doing wrong until you're told you're doing wrong," Howell told commissioners. "Until January I had no idea I was doing anything against regulation."