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N.C. Lottery Director: Integrity Key In Starting Numbers Game

Posted November 18, 2005

— North Carolina has put the future of its new lottery in the hands of a former head of the New Mexico Lottery who has helped launch lotteries in three other states.

The state lottery commission selected Tom Shaheen, the immediate past president of the North American lottery association, at a meeting Thursday.

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  • Shaheen said integrity is what will make the lottery in North Carolina a success.

    "I'm here to help you raise as much money as we possibly can for all of the great educational programs," he said.

    "He is someone who emphasizes honesty and integrity in the process of running the lottery and in addition to setting it up, and those are the key words, as far as we are concerned," said Charles Sanders, chairman of the lottery commission.

    Shaheen said he will launch the games with a conservative advertising approach and will not let the controversy already surrounding the lottery prevent him from starting a program the public can trust.

    "The story is still going to be going this week and maybe the week after, but once they see how the lottery is up and running honestly, fairly and with integrity, then they will change their mind," he said.

    Shaheen emphasizes he will not sell high hopes. His advertising campaign will eventually focus more on the benefits the lottery has to education.

    "We are not going to induce anybody to play or make false promises of financial gain," he said.

    Shaheen, 52, resigned Tuesday after five years in New Mexico. He helped start lotteries in Florida, Texas and Georgia.

    In New Mexico, he streamlined the staff to save more than $1 million a year. He also renegotiated a contract with the lottery company, GTECH Holdings of Rhode Island, and saved $12 million over three years, said former lottery Chairwoman Claydean Claiborne.

    In 2004, New Mexico lottery ticket sales reached a high of $148 million. Returns to education kept growing with a high of nearly $36 million last year. Prior to Shaheen's arrival there, returns to education were in the low $20 million range.

    "He's been through three start-ups and certainly knows what needs to be done," said Rebecca Paul, president of the Tennessee Lottery, who was Shaheen's boss for 13 years in two other states.

    Already 3,500 retail outlets have shown interest in selling lottery tickets.

    Shaheen joins a North Carolina lottery that has struggled early with ethics concerns. Attorney General Roy Cooper is investigating potential lobbying law violations by a former lottery commissioner and a former aide to House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, who was hired by lottery company Scientific Games Corp. Scientific Games and one of its vice presidents are also being investigated.

    "We would like to get out of this publicity trap we find ourselves in," Sanders said.

    Shaheen was making $207,000 in New Mexico. As North Carolina's new director, he will make $235,000. He also has the ability to make a $50,000 bonus if he can get the games up and running within four months.

    The four months will start on his first day. Right now, he's waiting to see if New Mexico will let him out of his 30-day notice contractual obligation. Officials said the lottery could be up and running by spring.


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