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N.Y. Lottery Director To Head Georgia Games

Dec 19, 2003, 3:16 am

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Georgia Lottery

The director of New York's lottery, Margaret DeFrancisco, was chosen Thursday to head Georgia's lottery games.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, who announced the appointment, called her "a can-do person" and expressed confidence she will "take our lottery to a new level."

The Georgia Lottery Corporation has been without a permanent president and chief executive officer since Rebecca Paul, the founding director, jumped ship in September to run Tennessee's startup games.

DeFrancisco, 54, has headed the New York games since 1999 and is credited with raising sales from $3.6 billion that year to $5.4 billion this year. It is the largest lottery in the United States.

She will start next month and will be paid a base salary of $225,000, with the possibility of a bonus, prorated for the fiscal year. The bonus will range from $100,000 to $150,000 based on meeting specific targets.

Georgia's lottery funds two highly regarded initiatives, including a pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds and the popular HOPE scholarship program which pays for college tuition, fees and books for students who earn and keep a "B" average.

Both programs are expanding beyond the lottery's ability to fund them. By 2007, the lottery is expected to fall $140 million short of meeting the state's needs. That deficit is expected to grow to $450 million by the following year.

A special commission that met last summer has called for the state to stop paying for textbooks and fees, among other things, as a step toward reducing costs.

"I think she understands the point that we're at in Georgia in a maturing lottery," Perdue said. "But she took a very mature lottery in New York and pushed it up ... Her job is to bring in the money. Our job is to make the policy that educates more kids than we ever have in Georgia."

Asked if he had given her a goal or target for improving sales, Perdue replied: "I have absolutely: as much as she can."

DeFrancisco was selected for the lucrative job, besting interim Georgia Lottery Corp. President Cathy Walls and David Fisher, former senior managing director for private banking at Bank of America.  DeFrancisco, Walls, and Fisher were finalists selected from 300 applicants who applied for the job as part of a two-month nationwide search led by Korn/Ferry International.

The way the Georgia lottery is set up is the envy of other lottery directors around the country, DeFrancisco said. In New York and other states lotteries are run as a department of government, with a litany of constraints.

"Here is it almost like a private business," she said. "It is much easier to get things done."

The board had set an an end-of-year deadline to have a new leader in place after former GLC President Rebecca Paul's surprise September announcement that she was leaving the Georgia game to take over Tennessee's fledgling lottery.

Paul, who helped start Georgia's lottery, will make up to $750,000 a year in Tennessee once incentives are added to her base salary. She made about $500,000 annually here.

Paul took over the lottery after voters approved it in 1992 and helped put Georgia on the national gambling map by maintaining record sales year after year. Ticket sales have improved every year but one in the past decade.

Georgia's lottery success has largely been due to a mix of games that changed regularly, and the fact that a third of the proceeds went to highly popular HOPE college scholarships and pre-kindergarten classes.

The lottery has provided more than $6 billion for school programs since its inception.

New York Gov. George Pataki said DeFrancisco "has done a tremendous job as the head of New York's Lottery Division, and under her leadership the lottery is now providing more support for public education than ever before. We will miss her, and we wish her the very best in her new position."

Pataki spokesman Joseph Conway said there was no immediate replacement selected for DeFrancisco, a Rochester resident and former Monroe County clerk.

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