Scratch-off would be only game for months
Tennesseans would be left to play a scratch-off lottery game for months before they get a chance to play computerized games such as lotto, under plans discussed by the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. board yesterday.
And your favorite spot to buy those lotto tickets might not get to sell them if the store doesn't sell enough scratch-offs while the computerized ticket-sales system is being installed statewide.
The board discussed options but took no vote. Online games, those whose tickets are printed by an in-store computer at the time of purchase, usually have much bigger jackpots. It would take the state months to install this equipment and train ticket sellers on how to use it.
Meanwhile, Denny Bottorff, chairman of the Lottery Board, said any joint venture with Georgia's lottery could fall apart if Georgia officials refuse to give guarantees or pay penalties for missing a Dec. 2 deadline.
''The board may say, 'We want a contract in which you have something at risk if you don't deliver.' It could come apart on things like that,'' he said.
The board is scheduled to announce its decision whether to hook up with Georgia a week from today but still has to determine whether such a partnership is legal and whether it makes sense, Bottorff said yesterday.
The former Nashville banker said an opinion by state Attorney General Paul Summers that the alliance would be legal under the state legislation creating Tennessee's games does not necessarily mean Tennessee would join Georgia.
''If the lawyers say we do not have authority to enter into a contract with Georgia, then we move on,'' he said, referring to private lawyers the board has working on the question.
Georgia has said it can get the Volunteer State games going earlier late this year instead of March next year.
Partnership idea criticized
Bottorff also responded to a statement by state Sen. Bill Clabough, R-Maryville, who criticized the proposed partnership.
''It would be unfortunate if the new Lottery Board chooses to ignore what seems to me to be the General Assembly's clear legislative intent that all major contracts need to be publicly and competitively bid and awarded,'' Clabough said.
The law creating the lottery, passed earlier this year, provides that all contracts of more than $75,000 for lottery products and services must be competitively bid.
Bottorff said Clabough's remarks were ''one person's interpretation'' of the law.
''One thing we are looking at under the legislation is whether or not we have the authority to be able to contract with Georgia and, in so doing, fulfill our obligations for procurement. This is the first time anything like this has gone on in the United States,'' Bottorff said.
''What the board needs to do is hear from its counsel, which includes the attorney general and also all the lawyers that we have on this aspect.
''Does this statute allow this board to go forward and enter into a deal with Georgia? They will take into consideration when they issue the opinion of legislative intent.''
Two categories of games
The Lottery Board took no vote on a proposal that would require sellers of lottery tickets to sell some specified number of instant lottery tickets before they would be eligible to sell tickets for online games.
Lottery games fall into two broad categories: online and instant.
With an online system, a player makes his picks on a terminal connected to the lottery databank and finds out when the winning numbers are drawn if he or she has won anything. Pull-tab and scratch-off games tell you if you are an instant winner.
Janet Kleinfelter of the state attorney general's office said it would be several months before online games were available.
''It is an expensive proposition when you place a terminal in somebody's store,'' she said.
''If their instant sales are minimal, then the issue becomes do you want to make that capital investment in a store that only has minimal ticket sales when that terminal might be better utilized elsewhere.''
Bottorff said different states had different thresholds that lottery ticket sellers must meet to have terminals for online games. He added that he did not know what the standards here might be.
Sales inquiries pour in
The board also discussed but took no vote on application fees that convenience markets and other lottery ticket outlets will have to pay, but it appeared there would be separate fees for instant ticket and online licenses.
Lottery spokesman Will Pinkston said the board had received 1,700 inquiries from potential ticket sellers and that 300-400 were coming in each day.
The law requires criminal background checks on practically everyone with any connection to the lottery, including people who own or work in establishments that sell tickets.
Kleinfelter told the board that she had talked with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to try to determine the cheapest and quickest way to make such checks and that appeared to be for employees of the lottery organization to make the checks themselves.
Under this arrangement, the TBI would run a dedicated, secure telephone line from its computer to the lottery headquarters, and designated members of the lottery staff would be trained on how to access TBI's criminal records database.