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Illinois lottery director calls it quits

Illinois LotteryIllinois Lottery: Illinois lottery director calls it quits

Michael Jones' run as Illinois Lottery Director is over.

Late Wednesday Jones sent a brief memo to his Lottery colleagues that said his job there "is done." Jones went on to write that he had informed Gov. Bruce Rauner's chief of staff "a while ago" that he was planning to leave his post. Jones said his immediate plan is to go "surfing at my home break, Seapark, next week."

In a statement to the Chicago Business Journal this afternoon, Gov. Bruce Rauner said he "appreciated Michael Jones stepping up to the difficult task of managing the state lottery." Rauner added: "His (Jones) experience and knowledge have been an important asset to the agency."

Jones' last day at the Lottery will be Friday.

Jones' departure ends a grueling three-and-a-half year saga for the Lottery director.

For most of that time Jones pushed mightily to implement a reform agenda largely focused on rebranding the Illinois Lottery and reformulating its advertising strategy to grow the player base and the revenue the Lottery generated for the state.

Jones' arrival in the fall of 2011 as the Lottery's director actually marked his second tenure in the post. He previously had a very high-profile run of similar duration in the early 1980's under former Gov. Jim Thompson. At that time, Jones used his marketing skills and his youthful charisma to help raise the Lottery's profile.

He would spend the intervening years between his two tenures running a lottery research firm and establishing himself as an expert on lottery operations and marketing, among other things.

But Jones' second run as Lottery head would prove controversial almost from the moment he took on the job. He immediately fired Energy BBDO Chicago as the Lottery's ad agency of record. Energy BBDO got that assignment largely because it was part of the Northstar Lottery Group, a consortium of companies that former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn tapped in late 2010 to become the first-ever private manager of the Illinois Lottery.

Jones' quick move to ax Energy BBDO immediately created a rift between him and the Northstar management team — a rift that would essentially only grow worse until Quinn — fighting for his political life — finally fire d Northstar in August of last year for not reaching its promised Lottery revenue goals.

But even though he was at odds with Northstar almost from the moment he became Lottery Director in 2011, Jones conducted an agency review to replace Energy BBDO and wound up working with Downtown Partners Chicago, then headed by gifted advertising guru Jim Schmidt, who would tragically die from cancer in late 2013.

Jones, the Downtown Partners team and multicultural agency Commonground Chicago began introducing a new approach to Lottery advertising designed to elevate the Lottery's brand image. But Northstar's inability to grow the infrastructure of Lottery vendors and other operational problems limited the dramatically-changed marketing's effectiveness.

Eventually, relations between Northstar and Jones grew so ugly that the Lottery Director was banned from all marketing meetings and from talking to any of the Lottery's ad agencies about marketing matters — an edict Northstar could make under the terms of its contract with the state.

It was only after Quinn moved to fire Northstar that Jones once again began to take charge of the Lottery advertising. He also fought for more special cause instant lottery games and more advertising to support them in order to boost and broaden the appeal of the Lottery brand.

But even as Lottery revenue numbers were starting to show healthy growth in the fourth quarter of 2014, the state was undergoing a government regime change that swept in Bruce Rauner to replace Quinn.

Though Jones is not talking in the immediate wake of his departure announcement, it appears he realized he had done all that he could to get the Lottery brand to a new place and that he had collected enough battle scars in the process.

As Jones noted in his memo yesterday to colleagues: "I was asked to become Illinois Lottery Director again in 2011 to 'straighten' out the Lottery's new private manager model. As many of you know 'straightening' it out proved to be a much more difficult task, in an artificially difficult environment, than I could ever have imagined."

Jones also noted in his farewell note that he is leaving confident that he and his staff had "proved that broadening the Illinois Lottery's player base through innovative marketing could dramatically increase profits to good causes, and that enforcing the terms of a contract with a private consortium, fairly but firmly, was the correct thing for a state agency to do."

But it appeared time for Jones to get back to the private sector and for a new Governor to decide where things will go from this point.

Rauner, no doubt, will find a new leader to replace Jones as Northstar's role with the Lottery winds down and ends later this year.

The only question now is whether the new Lottery Director will be the same kind of fighter and the same kind of talented marketing and branding-oriented executive that Jones proved to be.

Rauner's task won't be easy.

Chicago Business Journal

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8 comments. Last comment 2 years ago by HaveABall.
Page 1 of 1
OldSchoolPa's avatar - Lottery-057.jpg
Gurnee, Illinois
United States
Member #49731
February 12, 2007
917 Posts
Offline
Posted: March 20, 2015, 10:43 am - IP Logged

Illinois raffle games are dead to me. I have donated my last to the cause with this latest one since I never have won squat!

Get MONEY!!! Winning a JACKPOT lottery is all the HOPE and CHANGE I desire!!!  NOW give me MONEY!US Flag

The guy who won the presidency in 2008 really won the lottery...he is now millions richer, travels in first class style, and even has a staff that would be the envy of the richest Powerball winner (she has a staff of 2). Every night he goes to sleep, he probably plays the close of Dave Chappelle's Show: I'm rich beyatch!

    fast eddie's avatar - lasvegas2
    Chicago,IL.
    United States
    Member #2902
    November 29, 2003
    1426 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: March 20, 2015, 1:35 pm - IP Logged

    Illinois raffle games are dead to me. I have donated my last to the cause with this latest one since I never have won squat!

    I have never won squat either but the odds on the raffle games are still some of the best you can find. I know they had trouble selling out the St. Pats raffle but i think that is mostly due to the $20 cost and the fact most gamblers want their action fast and don't want to wait a month for a prize drawing.

    "Money won is twice as sweet as money earned"

      uprrman's avatar - nw bookeep.jpg
      harvard,il
      United States
      Member #96756
      September 4, 2010
      2462 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: March 20, 2015, 8:50 pm - IP Logged

      I have never won squat either but the odds on the raffle games are still some of the best you can find. I know they had trouble selling out the St. Pats raffle but i think that is mostly due to the $20 cost and the fact most gamblers want their action fast and don't want to wait a month for a prize drawing.

      I Agree!cost to much and i never won squat eitherSad Cheers

      i want to be a millionaire a second time!


        United States
        Member #108380
        March 25, 2011
        505 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: March 20, 2015, 11:09 pm - IP Logged

        raffle's are an outdated idea from the 50's and 60's before there was instantaneous gratification from instant scratch offs and those who are patient willing to wait for a nightly or bi-weekly  drawing. raffle, schmaffle. no one wants to wait and most forget that they bought it.  comparable to the irish sweepstakes which sold big about 60 years ago. maybe illinois should try to lure the fumbling, bumbling. arkansas lottery director bishop woolsey into their fold to help put the final nail in their lottery coffin.

          HaveABall's avatar - rocket

          United States
          Member #72448
          March 18, 2009
          1228 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: March 21, 2015, 12:47 am - IP Logged

          I have never won squat either but the odds on the raffle games are still some of the best you can find. I know they had trouble selling out the St. Pats raffle but i think that is mostly due to the $20 cost and the fact most gamblers want their action fast and don't want to wait a month for a prize drawing.

          I Agree!, fast eddie, about the great odds!  I will probably feel better about continuing to play this raffle each year if the Illinois Lottery changes the structure to the top TWO prizes being $2M Gross Cash Lump Sum (this way, after the various fed and state taxes get paid over the next 13 months or so, the winner would get to keep apx. $1M Net Cash)! 

          Cheers  Lep

          I'd hope for the same top TWO prizes being $2M Gross Cash Lump Sum  with their other annual raffle too. Idea

          Having several millions of dollars in my financial accounts means receiving several valuable services each day!

          Disney

            Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
            Zeta Reticuli Star System
            United States
            Member #30470
            January 17, 2006
            10353 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: March 21, 2015, 2:21 am - IP Logged

            I have never won squat either but the odds on the raffle games are still some of the best you can find. I know they had trouble selling out the St. Pats raffle but i think that is mostly due to the $20 cost and the fact most gamblers want their action fast and don't want to wait a month for a prize drawing.

            The odds aren't so hot if you consider that in lotto $1 or $2 can win anything from $2M to tens or hundreds of millions.

            A $20 raffle ticket that wins $2M wins $100,000 per dollar, if it wins $1M it wins $50,000 per dollar.

            The pot ain't right.

            Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any.

            Lep

            There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.

              TnTicketlosers's avatar - Lottery-065.jpg

              United States
              Member #71120
              February 19, 2009
              1209 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: March 21, 2015, 1:50 pm - IP Logged

              Tennessee Lottery is so corrupt that this state will never be the same...They dont care what they do to people.Save yourself and dont play is the only way.

                HaveABall's avatar - rocket

                United States
                Member #72448
                March 18, 2009
                1228 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: March 22, 2015, 10:33 pm - IP Logged

                The odds aren't so hot if you consider that in lotto $1 or $2 can win anything from $2M to tens or hundreds of millions.

                A $20 raffle ticket that wins $2M wins $100,000 per dollar, if it wins $1M it wins $50,000 per dollar.

                The pot ain't right.

                Are you confusing his accurate use of the term "odds" with ratio? 

                Because, Coin Toss, if you mean ratio, then I think we all agree with you; that's why we regularly play Powerball and Mega Millions lottery games.  Do you understand that we only buy one $20 ticket to the bi-annual raffle?

                Having several millions of dollars in my financial accounts means receiving several valuable services each day!

                Disney