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Ex-New Mexico Lottery CEO Could Be First N.C. Lottery Director

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RALEIGH, N.C. — State lottery commission chairman Charles Sanders would not confirm who would be announced as the head of the state's education lottery Thursday, but all indications seem to point to the head of the New Mexico Lottery head, who resigned from his post there late Tuesday.

Until Tuesday, Tom Shaheen was the chief executive officer of the New Mexico Lottery, where he served for five years and guided the lottery to record sales and returns. He was one of six applicants interviewed last week for the director position in North Carolina.

Sanders would not say if the commission had offered the job to Shaheen, but did say Tuesday that Shaheen had an impressive resume and that several commission members were impressed with him, particularly because of his experience in helping to begin Georgia's lottery.

"He's obviously very skilled, but so were the other candidates," Sanders said.

New Mexico Lottery spokesman Lance Ross could comment about the prospects of Shaheen coming to North Carolina; Shaheen did not immediately return messages seeking comment to the Associated Press.

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.

Paul said Shaheen would not be intimidated by the turmoil already surrounding the North Carolina lottery.

"I think Tom, through all the years he's been in business, has been known to have integrity -- and integrity is what a lottery sells," she said.

As North Carolina decides who will sell lottery tickets and which lottery companies to use, Shaheen could have some interesting input. Scientific Games, the instant ticket vendor in New Mexico, is the same company that hired two people now under investigation for breaking lobbying laws in North Carolina.

The lottery commission is also expected to announce the new director's salary Thursday. In New Mexico, Shaheen was making about $207,000; the lottery board there recently gave him a raise in an effort to try to keep him there.

Before being named CEO in New Mexico, Shaheen worked with lotteries in Florida, Texas and Georgia.

Others in the running to lead the North Carolina's lottery include Paul Lanteigne, director of the Virginia lottery board; Wanda Wilson, executive vice president and general counsel of Tennessee's lottery; and Sidney Chambers, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Tennessee lottery.

The lottery director in North Carolina is expected to earn one of the highest salaries in state government. The director will help build the lottery from scratch. The mission includes hiring a staff and helping the commission select one or more vendors to run an operation that's expected to generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue.


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