Every day the state goes without a lottery is a lost opportunity for education funding, the Oklahoma Lottery Commission was told Tuesday by three people involved in starting up lotteries in other states.
Hiring an executive director is the most important step and must be done quickly, said Rebecca Graham Paul, president and chief executive officer of Tennessee's lottery, which started up last year.
Lottery commissioners have received 15 applications for executive director. Paul said the commission's executive director search committee should start reviewing those applications this week, while screening others as they arrive.
Cecil Phillips, who was a member of Georgia's lottery board of directors when that state started a lottery, said selecting an executive director is the "single, most serious decision" the commission will make.
Phillips, whose board hired Paul in 1993 to run Georgia's lottery, said the lottery commission should not hinder an executive director's ability to succeed.
"Whoever you choose, you must not micromanage that person," he said.
Paul said Oklahoma still should be able to meet Gov. Brad Henry's goal of having scratch-off tickets available in October or November. For that to happen, the board must have an executive director in place by June, she said.
Lottery commission members also must decide soon whether to hire outside legal counsel and about getting temporary office space, Paul said. The commission also must look into obtaining a line of credit to pay start-up costs.
The House is scheduled today to take up a $500,000 supplemental request already approved by the Senate that would pay start-up costs through July 1. The lottery commission is to pay the money back to the state's general fund no later than June 30, 2007. Henry also is asking legislators to appropriate $500,000 for the lottery commission for the 2006 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Tom Shaheen, chief executive officer of the New Mexico Lottery, said Oklahoma lottery commission members must decide whether to have satellite offices, where lottery winners can claim their prizes, or whether all winners must drive to Oklahoma City.
He said about 2,500 of Oklahoma's estimated 3,900 possible retail outlets probably would sell lottery tickets.
Paul, whose Tennessee Lottery earned more than $123 million for educational purposes after five months of ticket sales, said, "The task you're about to undertake is pretty phenomenal."