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Arkansas Gov. and new lottery director meet

Arkansas LotteryArkansas Lottery: Arkansas Gov. and new lottery director meet

Prelude of coming battle over Keno

The head of the Arkansas state lottery and Gov. Mike Beebe met for the first time Monday but didn't talk much about their differences on keno.

Executive Director Ernie Passailaigue's meeting with the governor came five days after Beebe told reporters he would oppose keno being instituted in Arkansas as a state lottery game.

Passailaigue has said he envisioned keno being played in bars and restaurants by people watching monitors for winning numbers that pop up every five minutes, but he wanted feedback from Beebe and legislative leaders about the intent of the lottery law.

Beebe and Passailaigue didn't discuss keno on Monday other than that the governor indicated his remarks about keno came in response to questions from a reporter, Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample and Passailaigue said.

DeCample said the governor introduced several of his staff members to Passailaigue and made the point that "he's not looking to put himself in the middle of the lottery stuff at all. When [the governor] has spoken on the lottery, it's almost always been in direct response to questions."

He said Beebe talked about his philosophy "that you work to find good people to put in charge and then you let them do their job." They also discussed Passailaigue's timeframe for starting ticket sales, he said.

Arkansas Lottery Commissioner Ben Pickard of Searcy, one of Beebe's three appointees to the commission, accompanied Passailaigue to the meeting with the governor. He described the meeting as "introductions."

The nine-member commission hired Passailaigue. He answers to the commission, not the governor.

Passailaigue's first official day is Wednesday, but he was in town Monday to get an early start.

After meeting with Beebe, Passailaigue said in an interview that keno is a low priority compared to starting Powerball ticket sales.

As to when the commission would decide on keno, Passailaigue said "maybe in 12 or 24 months or maybe never." He's said any keno game approved would be a small percentage of lottery revenue.

"We are hopefully going to join Powerball officially on Wednesday, and [on] a scale of 0 to 100, I think that's about a 99 there," Passailaigue said.

The lottery commission on Wednesday is scheduled to consider Passailaigue's recommendation for Arkansas lottery to accept the multi-state Powerball group's invitation to join it.

The average jackpot for Powerball is about $136 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. Powerball tickets cost $1 and the odds of winning the jackpot are about one in 195 million.

"In fact one of the things we might look at doing is maybe moving the Powerball launch up from January or Februrary to maybe before Christmas," Passailaigue said. It's possible that the Powerball game could be the lottery's first game to be settled through drawings, he said.

The lottery commission has signaled it wants to start scratchoff ticket sales on or before Oct. 29 and ticket sales for games settled through drawings on or before Dec. 14 in its requests for proposals from lottery vendors.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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