Barring a Georgia lottery operator that had inside influence on the writing of North Carolina's state lottery law from running the game would leave only one bidder for the lucrative contract, the lottery commission chairman said Thursday.
Also Thursday, a former federal magistrate was nominated to fill the last vacancy on the lottery commission and a legal foundation sued to have the Legislature's vote creating the lottery declared void.
Charles Sanders, head of the lottery commission, said Scientific Games Corp. of Alpharetta, Ga., will be allowed to bid for the contract to run scratch-off and other games in North Carolina, along with Rhode Island-based GTech Corp.
"There's no reason that they (Scientific Games) should be excluded based on what we know right now," Sanders said during a conference call. "We don't want one bidder for the games because then the bidder could name the price."
A former aide to state House Speaker Jim Black, Meredith Norris, was paid by Scientific Games to track lottery legislation as it moved through the General Assembly earlier this year, though she never registered as a lobbyist.
Records show Norris spent nearly $4,600 of company money on food for legislators. She has said she did not disclose her ties to Scientific Games because she only tracked the lottery legislation and did not try to lobby Black or other lawmakers.
Black has been under fire for actions he took in connection with the lottery legislation. His appointee to the lottery commission, Kevin Geddings of Charlotte, resigned after it was revealed Geddings had not disclosed the fact he was paid $24,500 this year by Scientific Games.
State officials are investigating whether Geddings and Norris violated North Carolina lobbying laws.
Memos sent by a top Scientific Games official and released by Black's office have shown the company tried to shape the state's lottery law to keep other companies from being able to win the contract, expected to be worth millions of dollars annually.
North Carolina was the last East Coast state to begin a lottery when it passed enabling legislation in August. Gov. Mike Easley had lobbied for such a game for years.
Also on Thursday's conference call, Sanders said attorneys have told the commission it might not bar convenience stores and other retailers with video poker machines from also selling lottery tickets.
"The only way to address that is at the legislature," Sanders said.
Lawyer, Rancher Join Lottery Panel
House Speaker Jim Black on Thursday turned to a former federal magistrate and dude ranch owner to fill the last open seat on the lottery commission.
Black appointed Max Cogburn Jr. of Asheville to the lottery commission to replace former Ingles Markets vice president Gordon Myers, who stepped down because he was concerned that his work for the Asheville-based grocery chain would present a conflict of interest if lottery tickets are sold at the stores.
Cogburn is a lawyer at his own firm and one of the owners of the Pisgah View Ranch in Candler, a dude ranch that his family has operated as a business since 1941. He served as a U.S. magistrate judge from 1995 to 2004 and is a former federal prosecutor.
Gov. Mike Easley must confirm the nomination.