Numbers for North Dakota's new Powerball lottery may be provided by another state lottery's computer system, a move that officials say would reduce the cost of running the game in a small, rural state.
Lottery administrators say the sharing arrangement has a chance to be the first of its kind in the nation. Directors of the new Tennessee lottery, which hopes to begin selling tickets early next year, are exploring a cooperative arrangement with neighboring Georgia.
Chuck Keller, North Dakota's interim lottery director, has discussed the possibility of cooperation with lottery officials in Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota. All three states offer Powerball and have the computer capacity to handle North Dakota's business.
"We have the infrastructure. It's powered up. If North Dakota was on our system, we could handle it with no problem," said George Andersen, director of the Minnesota Lottery.
Keller is soliciting bids from private lottery companies for North Dakota's business, and asking them to detail how they would use equipment they have in other states to handle North Dakota's lottery.
Saving startup costs
A cooperative agreement would save North Dakota a substantial sum in lottery startup costs, Keller believes. For example, North Dakota's lottery would not have to pay for computer servers and software for the state's sole use.
"We're not ruling out any approach yet," Keller said. "But, theoretically, it would seem that a partnership arrangement with another state lottery would be the most economical way to go for everyone concerned."
Powerball is played in 24 states. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says he hopes sales of Powerball tickets will begin in North Dakota by March 2004. North Dakota may also take part in two smaller multistate games, called Hot Lotto and Wild Card 2.
Each of North Dakota's three neighboring states has an agreement with a private lottery company, which provides services needed to offer Powerball and other games. In exchange, the company takes a cut of ticket sales.
Both the companies and state lottery administrators are interested in North Dakota's ideas for cooperation. It could mean more efficient use of computer equipment and a better deal for the state that hosts North Dakota's game, officials say.
Lower prices for all
For example, South Dakota pays 14.029 cents per $1 Powerball ticket sold to its lottery company, International Game Technology of Reno, Nev., said Clint Harris, director of the South Dakota Lottery.
If IGT were able to add North Dakota's business onto the equipment it uses to run the South Dakota lottery, South Dakota may be able to get a break on that commission, Harris said.
"When you have a bigger customer base, you should be able to get a better deal from your vendor," Harris said.
Four lottery companies, which handle almost all of the lottery business in the United States, have expressed interest in North Dakota's new lottery, Keller said. They are IGT; Scientific Games Corp. of New York City; GTech Corp. of West Greenwich, R.I.; and Intralot SA of Athens, Greece.