Issue 24 - March 4th, 2019
"If you don't like the weather in Arkansas, stick around five minutes - it'll change."
Like many southern states, Arkansas has its fair share of sayings. One that comes to mind lately is, "If you don't like the weather in Arkansas, stick around five minutes - it'll change." Arkansas weather reminds me a lot of the lottery industry in that it often changes from one extreme to another in a very short time. Just two weeks ago I was quietly enjoying my last few months as the First Vice President of NASPL (also known as The Most Irrelevant Man in the World), when I received word from David Gale that my 15 minutes of fame would start a bit sooner than I had anticipated, due to the departure of our friend Dennis Berg. I wanted to be President and all, but I was certainly content allowing Dennis to shepherd us through the next six months from the friendly confines of Believeland.
In all seriousness, let's give credit where credit is due. Dennis has served the lottery industry well. He worked at the Ohio Lottery for 27 years and served as the Ohio director for eight. Twenty-seven years anywhere is an accomplishment unto itself, and eight years as a lottery director is a lifetime.
As May Scheve told me when I started, "The average tenure of a lottery director is 18 months. Welcome to the industry."
Best wishes and good luck, Dennis. We thank you for your service. You will be sorely missed.
Enough sappy stuff. So, here I am, the modern day Gerald Ford, an accidental President assuming office right in the middle of a legislative session, preparing budgets and updating business plans for next fiscal year, and knee deep in the planning stages of the NASPL conference in Little Rock in September, all the while trying to wrap my head around the recent DOJ opinion that could have a devastating impact on our industry. What did Ferris Bueller say? "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
An aside: If you are noticing the trends of political history, 1980s movie trivia, and a southern flavor here, you should know that you elected a child of the 80s, who hails from the south, and who graduated with a political science degree. These trends will continue; I can't help myself.
So, slowing it down, let's look at what we have ahead of us in the next six months or so. The recent DOJ opinion has resulted in frustration, uncertainty, and for those lawyers among us, confusion. For some of us, it conceivably outlawed games that we were currently offering, and for others, it threw a monkey wrench into any sports gaming or online gaming plans we had in the short term. For most of us, it was just confounding. As I read it, it reminded me of another southern phrase: "That dog won't hunt." (Translation: The opinion will never survive scrutiny to fulfill its intended purpose.)
That begs the question of, "Who will challenge this sweeping and poorly reasoned broadside against our industry?" In short, us. The wheels are already turning as I write this. That is the beauty of an organization like NASPL. We have an army of lotteries we can use to mobilize, plan, and exert influence en masse. Our power is in our numbers and on the potential impact of the good causes we fund.
New Hampshire fired the first shot across the bow with a lawsuit against the DOJ. Other states appear ready to follow suit and many of us are rallying our state Attorneys General to sign a letter condemning the DOJ opinion. In order to succeed, we must be vocal and provide clear notice to our leaders of the potential price this opinion may have on our ability to fund education, veterans, or whatever good cause(s) each state may have designated. As they say, money talks and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Get to squeaking.
As I mentioned, we are also busy preparing for the NASPL conference in Little Rock this fall. I can't wait to show off Arkansas - my lifelong home - to the lottery industry. September should bring great weather (forget what I said earlier), and we have lined up some fantastic venues and entertainment for you to enjoy that week. If you like food, you'll love Little Rock. Bring some loose fitting clothes to wear, because you're sure to gain a pound or two from the great meals you're going to eat. I tell folks that Arkansas cuisine steals the best from all parts of the South and puts it all into one place. From great BBQ to steak and tamales, cheese dip to catfish, and all the other down home southern cooking, you will have your choice of some of the finest food in this region. Come early and stay late. We can't wait to see you.
In closing, I thank you for placing your confidence in me and for giving me the opportunity to serve. I look forward to interacting with all of you. By working together, I know we will embrace the challenges ahead and we will continue to make our industry as strong as it can be.
See you soon.
Director, Arkansas Scholarship Lottery