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Lottery Commission Pledges To Make Ethics Top Priority

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It was officially "game on" Thursday as the state lottery commission met for the first time to begin developing a plan to get a numbers game in place across North Carolina.

While the nine-member board will decide what kinds of games will be available for play and when, members talked about ethical behavior in their first meeting.

"Where there is a great deal of money involved, as there is here, there must be transparency and a clear code of ethical conduct for the commission and for all its employees," said commission chair Charles Sanders, a former Glaxo CEO who was initially against the lottery.

Sanders' pledge came amid much discussion about potential conflicts of interest among commission members and vendors and retailers who would operate the games.

Charlotte businessman Kevin Geddings acknowledged that he has ties to an executive with a national lottery vendor that he met while working on South Carolina's lottery. But, he said, he would excuse himself from decisions involving lottery vendors to avoid potential conflicts.

"In the interest of making sure that this lottery and the integrity of it is 100 percent maintained, I will not vote on any final decision relating to a vendor selection because of these acquaintances," Geddings said. "I have learned a lot, but I, in no way, want to give any sort of appearance of impropriety."

Malachi Green, another Charlotte businessman, emphasized that it was the group's responsibility to be above board on all aspects of the process and that members should not meet with potential vendors privately.

"If we start off meeting behind closed doors, or individually, with people, I suspect the public will not have confidence in our ability to get this thing done," Green said.

The commission also decided to name the numbers game the "North Carolina Education Lottery." Sanders said he wanted to ensure that the money generated from the lottery supplements existing education funds.

"This money is to be used for prekindergarten children at risk, capital construction, university and college scholarships," Sanders said.

The commission plans to meet every two weeks and is expected to meet again at the end of October, when it will begin the process of looking at other states' lotteries and how they were implemented. Board members also said that one of the first things they would like to do is to hire a director for the lottery by the end of the year.

Sanders declined to give a timetable for when the games would reach the public, but he told WRAL that he would like for it begin sometime in mid 2006. He also said the lottery would likely begin with scratch games.


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