George Andersen built the Minnesota Lottery from the ground up, and some who knew him say he looked upon it less like a bureaucrat and more like a proud and protective father.
Andersen committed suicide Tuesday, a day after meeting with a government auditor examining the lottery's operations. He was found outside his home, and an autopsy determined he died of hypothermia in single-digit termperatures after cutting his wrists, said sheriff's Cmdr. Scott Malinosky said.
Andersen's death has focused new attention on criticism that the Minnesota Lottery has had higher overhead costs than comparable state lotteries.
Authorities have not released the note they say Andersen left. The government review of the lottery will not be completed for a few weeks, and state officials will not describe what they have found.
Some associates and legislators said the criticism may have hit Andersen especially hard because he considered the lottery to be more than a job. Andersen, 53, is the only director in the lottery's 14-year history.
"He was the lottery, the lottery was him," said state Rep. Jim Rhodes, the chairman of a committee that deals with gambling. "So (the audit) was personal I suspect."
The audit began last summer. One friend, Ron Maddox, said Andersen was concerned about the lottery and its employees, although Maddox once told him he was "making a mountain out of a molehill."
"That was one thing that bothered him about the audit," Maddox said. "You attack the lottery, you attack his family."
Legislators requested the audit on the heels of an independent report by an environmental group that questioned whether lottery beneficiaries got enough bang for the buck. Much of the profits from the lottery go into a trust fund for natural resources.
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy studied several years of revenue and expenses of lotteries in nine similarly sized states. The group's research found that Minnesota's lottery tended to spend more on promotions, salaries and other operating costs.
For instance, the group said Louisiana averaged a $3.80 return on every dollar spent on administration to Minnesota's $1.82 from 1999 to 2002.
The group also reported that the Minnesota Lottery was the only lottery of the nine studied that spent more than $50 million on administrative costs in one year.
Andersen disputed the report's conclusions, saying Minnesota gamblers enjoy higher payouts and buy more instant scratch-off tickets, which are more costly to administer than drawing games like Powerball.
The report led Rep. Dennis Ozment to introduce legislation that would add more oversight to the lottery, which has received less political scrutiny than other government divisions. It took until this fiscal year for the Legislature to cap the lottery's operating expenses.
Published and broadcast reports after Andersen's death cited anonymous sources as saying auditors were, among other things, looking at whether the director received perks from lottery vendors.
St. Paul-based Media Rare Inc., which does promotional work for the lottery, was among those questioned by auditors, said its president, Jeff Denney. He wouldn't comment to The Associated Press on the discussions.
Andersen participated in a bass fishing tournament operated by Media Rare and sponsored in part by the lottery. Denney said Andersen paid the required entrance fee and didn't receive special treatment.
"George is an incredible individual," Denney said. "He of all people would go the extra mile to do things in a proper and ethical way."
Andersen's salary was $114,288. His personnel file did not indicate there were any pending or completed complaints, charges or disciplinary action against him, according to lottery spokeswoman Debbie Hoffman.