For those prone to wager, a lottery partnership between Georgia and Tennessee looks like a pretty good bet these days.
Georgia officials have proposed the partnership, which would be unique in the nation and could involve anything from sharing office supplies and vendors to combined games.
The idea got a push last week when a consultant told Tennessee's lottery board that a joint venture would make the Volunteer State mountains of money over the next few years.
"There appear to be a huge number of merits for doing the deal," Claire Tucker, secretary-treasurer for the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp.'s board said in an interview.
Tucker said the proposed partnership, which would allow Tennessee to begin its lottery months early, probably will be discussed during today's board meeting in Nashville, even though no vote is scheduled.
A formal vote -- both the Tennessee and Georgia boards would have to approve the idea -- could be taken within a week. Tucker said one vote probably would be taken on the general concept of a partnership, which would allow Tennessee to begin its games sharing Georgia's expertise and vendors. A probable second vote would be on the specifics of a contract, which have not been worked out, she said.
Eventually, the two states might consider combining lottery games, but it is unlikely at the outset, officials in both states said. The initial partnership probably would involve sharing expertise, administrative costs and vendors.
"If a combined game makes sense, we certainly want to be able to look at that," Tucker said. "We want that flexibility in any contract with Georgia."
Tucker, who is president of Nashville's FirstBank, said the board is engaged in the last phase of a fact-finding sweep that has taken Tennessee officials from downtown Atlanta to the Canadian provinces.
No joint operations exist among the 38 lotteries in the United States. But some countries, including Canada, do have alliances in which lotteries share expenses and, in some cases, gaming operations, said Rebecca Paul, president of the Georgia Lottery Corp.
Georgia officials think cooperation with Tennessee could help stem the anticipated loss of $100 million in lottery sales to the new competitor. Officials also had feared lower sales when South Carolina started its lottery, but Georgia sales actually increased by about $3 million a week, Paul said.
Georgia's lottery began in 1993 and has annual sales of $2.6 billion with profits of $751 million, which fund the state's HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs. Tennessee's lottery is expected to produce $872 million in revenues its first year, with the proceeds going to education.
Tennessee voters approved the lottery in November, and the board was appointed in May. It could conduct its first game in March if the state goes it alone, but a partnership with Georgia would move the startup date to early December.
"They're going from zero to a billion-dollar-a-year business with very little time to get it done," Paul said.
Florida-based consultant Gerry Wexelbaum told Tennessee officials last week that partnering with Georgia could result in "$101 million to $249 million" in additional net proceeds for Tennessee during the first seven years of the game.
Just moving the lottery startup from March to December could mean an additional $40 million to $70 million in revenue for Tennessee.