RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Education Lottery's top leader is retiring next spring, ending a stint with the agency that began before it started selling tickets more than a decade ago.
The lottery announced Wednesday that Alice Garland will step down as executive director at the end of March. She became the lottery's second executive director in late 2010, succeeding Tom Shaheen. During her tenure, annual ticket sales increased by $1 billion to $2.4 billion in the past fiscal year, while the share earmarked for public education has grown to $622 million.
Garland was the lottery's fifth employee when hired to lead its legislative and communications office in late 2005 — just a few months after legislators agreed to authorize the lottery following years of debate over whether state-sponsored gambling was appropriate. North Carolina was the last East Coast state to start a lottery.
While the lottery was a divisive issue, Garland said she hears few questions today when she speaks at community events and meetings about whether it should even exist.
"I'm most proud of seeing the acceptance of the lottery get higher," Garland said in an interview. "I think that we have really become a part of the culture."
Garland, 66, had previously planned to retire in 2016, but she said the commission asked her to stay on. Her current employment contract ends March 31. Her career included previous stints with several state agencies, ElectriCities and the office of U.S. Sen. John Edwards.
Lottery commission Chairman Courtney Crowder praised Garland's service and says the commission wants her successor in place before she retires. A search is already underway to succeed Garland, who receives a nearly $214,000 salary.
"North Carolina wanted a lottery that would benefit education," Crowder said in a news release. "There are also the expectations the lottery is fairly run, operates efficiently, and offers fun lottery games that are played responsibly. Alice has delivered on those goals."
In the meantime, Garland said she's excited about the start of keno draw games Oct. 29. Billed as a game that could attract younger players, keno is played in public places like restaurants, bars and bowling alleys and drawings occur rapidly. Close to 700 retailers initially will offer the games, Garland said.
Garland was recently selected for the Lottery Industry Hall of Fame and received an award from the National Council on Problem Gambling.