Jim Scroggins possessed almost every attribute state lottery commissioners were seeking.
He had headed two other state lotteries, was articulate, and is regarded throughout the industry as an innovator whose openness to new ideas had paid huge dividends.
It was an unexpected intangible, however, that pushed Scroggins over the top as the man to launch Oklahoma's lottery.
"He's a heartland guy," Lottery Commission Chairman Jim Orbison said.
Raised in a southern Illinois farm town, Scroggins has spent most of his life in the Midwest, including the last 18 years heading lotteries in Illinois and Missouri.
"He's not a rah-rah, Type-A personality on the outside," Orbison said, "but as we talked to him, we got to like him better and better."
Scroggins, 61, will leave his Missouri job June 1 and officially take over here five days later, although he and his new bosses expect him to begin his duties before that.
Ready for challenge
Scroggins, who never has started a lottery from scratch, said he was swayed by the challenge awaiting him in Oklahoma.
By all accounts, it will be daunting. State officials expect to sell the first scratch-off ticket in October. Accomplishing that will land him a $25,000 bonus.
Long before then, Scroggins must find office space, assemble a projected staff of 130 employees, develop a retail system for tickets and help choose a company to run the lottery.
"That's an aggressive roll-out, but it's eminently doable," said Bob Vincent, vice president of corporate communications for the Rhode Island-based GTECH, the world's largest lottery company.
Finding the right person -- and quickly -- was critical for the Lottery Commission.
The reason: "Any day you're not selling tickets is money lost," Vincent said.
State officials expect the lottery to make $65.5 million for education in fiscal year 2006, which begins July 1. That would require $218 million in ticket sales, said Susan Perry, spokeswoman for state Finance Director Scott Meacham.
The ultimate goal is $100 million to $150 million a year, requiring sales of $375 million to $500 million.
In Missouri, Scroggins oversaw sales that increased from $256 million in fiscal year 1993 to $791 million last year. Scroggins was largely responsible for that, Vincent said.
"You have to continually innovate ... bring in new themes, new kinds of games, and Jim's always been known throughout the industry as an innovator, someone willing to try new things," he said.
Two other factors likely led Scroggins to Oklahoma:
Pay: His Missouri salary of $99,000 was among the lowest in the industry. He will receive $175,000 here, plus a $30,000 signing bonus and the chance of $50,000 more if he meets certain sales deadlines. His contract also includes a possible bonus to be set by commissioners after two years.
Stability: His agency's budget, along with his pay, was set by the Missouri General Assembly. That state has undergone five straight lean years, during which the lottery budget was cut 30 percent despite achieving sales records. In Oklahoma, the Lottery Commission will set Scroggins' budget.
'The Best Guy'
Scroggins' longevity in Missouri -- he has been director since 1992 -- is a bit of an anomaly, said Gary Gonder, that state's lottery spokesman.
"The average lifespan of a director is four years or less. For someone like Jim to be here for 13 years and serve under three different governors, he must have had something on the ball," Gonder said.
Scroggins said Tuesday he already had two people in mind for key jobs in Oklahoma. Gonder said to his knowledge, no one from the Missouri lottery is leaving.
Oklahoma lottery commissioners chose him from among 15 applicants. The list was culled to three, but Scroggins was the only one who underwent a thorough background check, Orbison said.
"Our collective experience is that we've seen people who looked really good on paper that don't necessarily look so good when you meet them and start asking questions," he said.
In addition to giving commissioners advice during his interview, Scroggins understood the Midwestern culture, Orbison said.
"We really ended up with the best guy," he said.