As several N.C. lottery commissioners arrived in the lobby of Tennessee Lottery headquarters Friday, they saw the bright side of their job: a $1 million winner with his poster-board check.
The winner, country music drummer Bill Caylor, not surprisingly said he felt "like a million bucks," one commissioner said.
Minutes later, Tennessee Lottery officials spelled out the downside of launching a lottery. Starting Monday, the N.C. commissioners face a 120-day blitz of hiring, buying, signing up ticket-sellers and -- still -- fending off critics who say the lottery shouldn't exist.
"It's just now settling down," said Denny Bottorff, board chairman at the nearly 2-year-old Tennessee Lottery, "to where the talk is, 'Boy, things are really going well.' "
Tennessee, the lottery North Carolina will most closely be copying in its startup, presented both the promise and pain of launching four months after the director was hired.
Like Tennessee officials, N.C. officials have built incentives into the director's salary for an early start, with a target of the first week in April. Each additional day the lottery is up and running can amount to $1 million for education programs, so commissioners consider the $50,000 bonus the director would receive for getting it started by that deadline to be well worth the cost.
N.C. Lottery Director Tom Shaheen starts Monday, and he and the commission must hire a staff, outfit a headquarters, contract with retail outlets and install machines, among other tasks.
"You don't even have paper clips," said Rebecca Paul, Tennessee's lottery director, who has led four state games and started three. "The massive amounts of things you have to buy are mind-boggling."
Charles Sanders, chairman of the N.C. Lottery Commission, said he agrees the immediate tasks are daunting but not intimidating.
"There's nothing that's not doable about it," said Sanders, a former Glaxo chairman. "It's a very doable enterprise and there are people who know how to do it."
Commissioners got a slight reminder of the controversy and headaches already endured. Representatives from the two major lottery vendors that will compete for North Carolina's contract listened to Friday's session, including an employee of Scientific Games, which the state is investigating in connection with possible lobbying violations.
Lottery officials will sift through thousands of résumés for a couple hundred jobs that must be filled quickly.
"You'll be criticized for every short-term decision you make," Tennessee Lottery Chairman Bottorff said, predicting pressure to hire politicians' friends and family.
Retailers have to be signed up, their backgrounds checked, their machines or displays installed and their employees trained.
Tennessee officials showed off their $300,000 worth of security measures, including dozens of networked surveillance cameras at lottery offices and even the TV station storage room for the pingpong-ball machines used for selecting numbers. Employees who handle the balls must wear white cotton gloves to avoid getting oil on them.
Despite the financial incentives, N.C. Lottery Commissioner Jim Woodward cautioned against too much speed.
"I don't want to spend the next three years fixing a problem that got built into the structural organization because we started a week early," said Woodward, former UNC Charlotte chancellor.
North Carolina's lottery proceeds, expected to approach $400 million a year, will be funneled to prekindergarten programs, new teachers, new schools and college scholarships
Months down the road, Tennessee officials predicted, any sniping will die down when more 4-year-olds are attending pre-K and new schools are going up.
"The long-term goals," Sanders said, "are worth all the headaches that go with it."
As of Sept. 30:
- Tennessee Lottery has gross ticket sales of $1.5 billion, and $415 million has gone to education programs.
- The state has introduced 71 instant-ticket games.
- Tennessee Lottery players have won more than $843.8 million in prizes.
- Tickets can be bought at 4,400 locations.
As of Sept. 1:
Note: The Tennessee Lottery was launched 22 months ago.