Gov. Mike Easley was just leaving the old House chamber in the state Capitol after signing the state lottery into law.
Will the game be his legacy?
"I'm not much into legacies," Easley, a Democrat, replied. "I don't want to be the 'lottery governor.' "
It might be a bit late for that.
More than any other of the dozens of politicians who crammed into the House chamber, Easley has beat the drum for a state lottery.
Easley campaigned on the issue during both of his successful runs for governor, the latest in 2004, and has regularly dispatched emissaries to lobby the legislature this year as the lottery legislation proceeded by fits and starts.
"He doesn't like the idea of legacies," said Mac McCorkle, a political adviser to Easley. Too often, McCorkle said, projects closely associated with a single politician turn out to be a boondoggle or an expensive white elephant that the state can't afford.
Instead, McCorkle said, Easley would much prefer to be remembered as the governor who helped create a steady stream of funding for the school system.
"That's what he wants his legacy to be, that he put North Carolina on a very disciplined, progressive course and he sees the lottery as part of that," McCorkle said.
But will average voters make that distinction? Not likely, said Thad Beyle, a political science professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.
"He's got some other things he's done, but the lottery is certainly something he's going to be remembered for," Beyle said.
Easley did not do much by way of public appearances during the bruising legislative battle to produce the lottery bill he signed Wednesday. He was asked why he didn't take to the stump to rally popular support for the game.
"When you've got 75 or 80 percent of the people for it, you don't need to do a lot of barnstorming around the state," Easley replied, drawing chuckles.
House Speaker Jim Black got even bigger laughs when he chimed in: "Those of you who think the governor's not involved haven't heard my phone ringing."
And Easley himself reinforced how important the lottery was to him. He recounted how a week before the lottery passed Senate leaders gave up the chance to use a parliamentary maneuver to get it passed.
"I was fit to be tied," Easley said.
Now that he has the lottery, one of Easley's biggest tasks will be getting it off on the right foot. Beyle said that residents in Florida became jaded when early stumbles made it appear lottery proceeds were not helping education as much as promised.
"He's got to keep it clean and make sure there are no disasters," Beyle said.
Although he has not appointed lottery commissioners or decided who will oversee the creation of the lottery administration, Easley hinted Wednesday at one way he hoped to keep the game clean. He said a constitutional amendment should be enacted to keep lottery proceeds dedicated for education rather than have them available to raid by future governors and legislatures during hard times.
McCorkle, too, emphasized that for the lottery to remain a positive accomplishment in the minds of voters, Easley would have to make sure it was aboveboard.
"It would not be cool with the voters if this turned out to be some sort of political patronage deal," he said.