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Hunt for N.C. lottery director pared to 4

Nov 3, 2005, 12:30 pm

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North Carolina Lottery

S.C.'s top 2 lottery officials are finalists with Tenn., New Mexico counterparts; startup experience is key

North Carolina lottery commissioners searching for a lottery director plan to interview South Carolina's top two lottery officials next Wednesday, as well as senior lottery officials from New Mexico and Tennessee.

Commissioners have narrowed their list to at least four finalists for the job, according to two officials familiar with the search. The lineup demonstrates the commission's push to find a director with experience — not just running a lottery, but starting one:

  • Ernie Passailaigue, director of the S.C. Education Lottery since it started in 2001.
  • Tony Cooper, chief operating officer for South Carolina's lottery since the startup.
  • Tom Shaheen, CEO of New Mexico's lottery, who helped launch Georgia's game.
  • Wanda Wilson, general counsel and executive vice president of Tennessee's lottery, who helped start that game.

"Unless you've been through a startup, you have no idea where the minefields are," said Rebecca Paul, director of the Tennessee lottery, during a meeting with commissioners last week. "It's very different starting a lottery than running an ongoing lottery — not necessarily harder, but a different skill set."

Paul, who can earn more than $700,000 including bonuses in Tennessee, ran the Illinois lottery and started the lotteries in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Penelope Kyle, president of Radford University and former director of the Virginia lottery, said states like North Carolina are wise to recruit a director from within the lottery industry. Kyle said "the learning curve was steep," despite her resume as a lawyer, college professor and vice president at railroad giant CSX Corp.

Turnover among key executives is one of the biggest challenges lotteries face, with the average director's tenure three years, said David Gale, executive director of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

Lottery commissioners expect to pay big for the job, in excess of $150,000 and certainly more than the governor's $128,000 salary.

Tony Cooper

  • Job: Chief Operating Officer, South Carolina Education Lottery
  • Experience: Director of District of Columbia Lottery; Auditor for District of Columbia
  • Started a lottery? Yes, South Carolina
  • Age: 55
  • Current Salary: $166,350

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