Issue 25 - April 5th, 2019
"It's not a job for the faint hearted, but it's certainly a worthy task."
I recently saw the news that the Mississippi Lottery is moving full steam ahead and plans to begin selling tickets by fall. That news is a bit bittersweet to the Arkansas Lottery, given that Mississippians have been pouring over our border for almost 10 years now, buying Arkansas lottery tickets. And though it may put a dent in our border sales, it is part of this job to welcome them to the industry.
So... welcome, Mississippi Lottery. I wish you all the success you could ever imagine - with maybe just a little less success near the northwestern border.
In all seriousness, we welcome them to an industry where the road goes on forever and the party never ends (yep, that's Robert Earl Keen). As the 46th American lottery, Mississippi will have the advantage of learning from the successes and failures of 45 lotteries before it, and they'll have access to the full resources of NASPL and help from a whole cast of lottery directors who are more than willing to give helpful advice.
As someone once told me, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
I would compare starting a lottery to drinking from a fire hose. You don't know what you don't know, issues are coming at you at light speed and there is little room for error, as your stakeholders and the players are counting on you. Trust me - I've been there, as part of the Arkansas startup almost ten years ago.
For those of us who have been a part of a lottery startup, I think we would all agree that you will likely never experience anything like it again. As a part of that team, I can remember the insane pace. From July 1, 2009, to September 28, 2009, we hired more than 70 employees; found office space and furniture; solicited and executed four vendor contracts without a protest; licensed and outfitted 1500 retailers; created an advertising plan and agency rules; and sold our first launch of four scratch off tickets. The timeframe between signing the vendor contracts and our launch was only 44 days.
I'm told it is a record, though I've never checked. What I do remember is how exhilarating and exhausting it was.
I distinctly remember our first Director, Ernie Passailaigue, telling us, "If you have plans for Labor Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas, cancel them. Because you'll be right here." I chuckled at the time, but he was almost right. At one point I think I worked 77 consecutive days.
It's not a job for the faint hearted, but it's certainly a worthy task.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the resources NASPL offers its members, both newcomer and veteran organizations alike.
NASPL can provide everything you need to get you up to date on what is going on in the industry. They have a top-notch team that is at your service, and their events provide all members with exclusive access to industry networking and education. Through the NASPL Matrix, members have access to resources like industry whitepapers, videos and presentations from past conferences and events, and their ongoing webinar series. It is also the place to go for Responsible Gambling, Best Practices and NSI certification.
If you need it, NASPL can likely provide it.
Now a funny Arkansas lottery startup side story... We were very fortunate to find a nice, fully furnished and very cheap office space. I remember how strange it was to find such a ready-made space that provided us a turnkey office option. My first day at my desk I noticed the drawers were fully stocked with pens and paper, and there were a couple of family pictures on my credenza. After a little investigation, we discovered that our office had previously been a Stanford Financial office that had been raided months earlier by the FBI for running an illegal Ponzi scheme.
What a way to start....
That's all for now.
Director, Arkansas Scholarship Lottery