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Interim Minnesota lottery director cites progress

Mar 19, 2004, 4:41 am

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Minnesota LotteryMinnesota Lottery: Interim Minnesota lottery director cites progress

After about a month on the job, Michael Vekich says hes making progress in reforming the way the Minnesota State Lottery operates.

Vekich told lawmakers on Tuesday that lottery officials have addressed nearly 70 percent of the state Legislative Auditors 49 recommendations in a report that was released last month.

We have accomplished a lot, said Vekich, who was appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to serve as interim director of the lottery in February following the suicide of Director George Andersen.

The Legislative Auditor report found inefficiency and poor judgment in some areas of the lotterys operation such as promotions. It did not find evidence of criminal activity.

The report called for the agency to be more accountable to elected officials.

Vekich, an expert on acquisitions and mergers as well as the turnaround of troubled businesses, addressed the House State Government Finance Committee.

The committee was considering a bill authored by Rep. Tim Wilkin, R-Eagan, to reform lottery operations.

Wilkins legislation would allow the lottery director to serve at the pleasure of the governor and it would require the director to submit a budget under guidelines from the Department of Finance. It also calls for a task force to look into the way the lottery is organized.

Vekich said he has asked all of the lotterys 156 employees to rethink the way the agency functions. The agency is working on a mission statement and strategic plan.

This is a business first, he said. Were going to be looking at all issues relative to how we maximize profits.

Among the recommendations from the Legislative Auditor that have yet to be addressed is how the agency handles advertising and promotions, Vekich said.

John Curry, legislative director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said other state lotteries operate under much stricter profit targets than the Minnesota Lottery.

After approving an amendment to Wilkins legislation that the task force examine profitability issues, the committee passed the bill. It will go next to the House Ways and Means Committee.

A similar bill in the Senate has been authored by Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-Minneapolis.

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