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N.C. Lottery commissioner says games are 'on track'

Dec 9, 2005, 8:48 am

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North Carolina Lottery

Bob Farris said North Carolina is on track to begin a state game in April.

Bob Farris, a member of the North Carolina Lottery Commission, said he suspects the lottery will first offer the scratch-and-win style games by spring, and then be able to join in the bigger lotto-style games by the summer.

New state lottery director Tom Shaheen has begun working toward making the games a reality. Farris called Shaheen, who has directed lotteries in other states, a "top flight man."

"He's done this before. He knows what he's doing," Farris said.

Shaheen is beginning his tenure in North Carolina at a slight disadvantage, Farris said. The offices selected to house the lottery operations did not have telephone service when Shaheen began work Monday.

"He's got seven desks and 13 computers in there, but no phone service," Farris said. "Everything's going from scratch right now."

Farris said Shaheen needs to hire five or six staff members as well.

Shaheen told the News and Observer he will hire a staff that ultimately will number 200 to 300 employees. His other priority is to start awarding contracts for operating the games and lining up retail locations.

Farris and other members of the lottery commission traveled to Tennessee last week to examine that state's gaming operations.

"They were really high tech. It was an impressive operation," Farris said.

The commission chose to visit Tennessee's operation because it was one of the newest lotteries in the country. Tennessee has been operating its game for about two years, Farris said.

"It's a lot like what we want to do. Their lottery hasn't been tainted by any scandals, and it's been devoted to education," Farris said.

Although North Carolina's lottery isn't ready for play, the state game has already seen its share of troubles. One of the original members of the Lottery Commission, Kevin Geddings, was paid more than $24,000 by Scientific Games, a lottery gaming company. Lobbyist Meredith Norris, a former aide to House Speaker Jim Black, who helped put Geddings on the commission, was also found to have been employed by Scientific Games.

Farris doesn't really see these as troubles for the Lottery Commission. He said members are trying to start a lottery to help raise funds for public education.

"Only the people who opposed the lottery will see these issues as indicative of anything bad. Those who wanted a lottery will be pleased we're getting the games," Farris said. "With our new director, we're right on track for having a good game."

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