Arthur L. "Arch" Gleason, the longtime head of the Kentucky Lottery Corp. died on Friday following a fall in Cincinnati.
Gleason, who was 69, had just announced his retirement three weeks ago after nearly 23 years as president of the Kentucky Lottery. He was the longest-serving lottery head in the nation.
"I think that's what bothers us most," said Chip Polston, the lottery spokesman. "He was finally at the point to enjoy the later years of his life and then this happens."
Former Gov. Brereton Jones brought Gleason to Kentucky in 1993 to clean up the state's lottery, which had gone through three executive directors in the previous four years and had just been the subject of a scathing audit that found irregularities in hiring, contracting and spending.
In the wake of the audit, virtually all of the lottery corporation's board was ousted and the entire lottery board resigned. Over the next two decades, Gleason ran the lottery without the drama or scandal that preceded him, but sometimes ran afoul of the state legislature by assiduously protecting the lottery's reserves.
In 2015, when the legislature demanded the lottery turn over $11 million from its reserve, Gleason balked, writing a check to the state for just $5 million. He argued that the lottery needed to keep an ample reserve in order to pay all winning tickets or risk the trust people had placed in the lottery.
"You've got a board that has basically thumbed its nose at the General Assembly. That's a real issue," Chris McDaniel, a Taylor Mill Republican who chairs the Senate budget committee, said in response. "We don't pass these budget bills as an exercise."
During his time in Kentucky, Gleason kept his home number in the phone book so he could answer questions or concerns about the lottery.
Polston said Gleason was most proud of the number of students who were able to attend college because of more than $2.5 billion that was returned to the state for the KEES Scholarship program.
A few years ago, Polston said a student who benefited from one of the scholarships invited Gleason to his college graduation party. Gleason didn't know the student but attended the party anyway. "
In recent years, the Kentucky Lottery has introduced a string of new games, increased revenue and the return to the state treasury, while at the same time increasing payouts to players.
The lottery board recently announced that it is on pace to set a record for ticket sales in the current fiscal year ending June 30.
Gleason's retirement was scheduled to begin on July 29, but he hadn't been at work of late because of an illness, Polston said.
When he announced his retirement, lottery board chairman June Hudson praised his service but promised that the lottery would carry on.
"Through Arch's leadership, the Kentucky Lottery has grown to realize nearly $1 billion a year in sales," she said. "Students all across Kentucky have benefited from his leadership, as more than $2.5 billion have gone to college scholarship and grant programs under his tenure.
"While we are sad to see him go, we wish him the best of luck in this new chapter in his life."
Gleason said in an interview last month that one of his disappointments was state lawmakers never approved the lottery's introduction of video games and machines at racetracks.
"We were ready, willing and able and the best agency to do so, but (state officials) preferred not to do so," he said.
Reared in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Gleason came to Kentucky following two stints as lottery director in West Virginia.
Gleason is survived by his wife of 48 years, Annie Gleason; his children, Archie (Rachel); Colleen; Katie; and Ryan (Kenzie); and seven grandchildren.
Visitation will be at Highlands Funeral Home at 3331 Taylorsville Rd. on Friday from 3-7 p.m., and a funeral mass will be held at Epiphany Catholic Church at 914 Old Harrods Creek Rd. on Saturday morning.
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