AIKEN - The newly hired director of South Carolina's lottery says, after 13 years as a state senator, he knows how to keep politics out of his job.
Former Charleston Sen. Ernie Passailaigue said the lottery will succeed based on whether people believe it is free from the politics that created it.
He points out that the law that defines his job states he can be fired if he donates money to a former colleague.
"If the people of this state believe the lottery has a high degree of integrity, that every player has the same honest attempt to win a prize as the next player, if its free from corruption and cronyism, if the money goes exactly where the Legislature stated it would go, you are going to have the ingredients for success," Mr. Passailaigue said.
Mr. Passailaigue, 54, was chosen over the director of the Washington, D.C., lottery, Anthony Cooper, by the South Carolina Lottery Commission last week.
After accepting the job, he immediately resigned his Senate seat. He now faces the daunting task of trying to keep his former colleagues from using the lottery as a political tool.
"I understand exactly not only what the law says, but what people think should happen and rightfully so," he said. "This is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical lottery. If politics is interjected within the commission's employees, they will be ex-employees. It's pretty simple."
He also faces competition from the hugely successful Georgia lottery, which already takes in about $100 million from Palmetto State ticket buyers.
Mr. Passailaigue and other lottery officials visited the Georgia Lottery operations last week and said they were impressed by a lottery that within five months met its first-year sales goal of $463 million and ended its first year with $1.1 billion in total sales.
But Mr. Passailiague said he is not fazed by those numbers. He said only that the bar is high.
"If we start off with a goal we are going to be number two or number 10 or down the ladder, then I don't think I need to be here," he said.
But in the end, Georgia wants the South Carolina lottery to grow, he said.
"I don't think Georgia sees us as competition," he said. "Maybe when it comes to the border counties. I think it is the feel of this industry, they want each lottery to succeed."
Another task for Mr. Passailaigue is reaching out to those who fought to see the lottery idea die. Forty-five percent of voters disapproved of the lottery.
Again he points to what he wants to be the most enduring characteristic of the lottery - integrity.
"We are not in the business to change minds about the lottery," he said. "What we are in the business to do is to make sure that when they look at our organization ... this commission and employees of the commission, they can say - even the most ardent opponents - this is the most well-run, professional lottery in the country."
In his first weeks, Mr. Passailaigue must find a second in command, something he said might happen when the lottery commission meets Tuesday.
About a proposal to push back the Nov. 1 start date, he said the only thing to do is wait and see.
"The best way to put that is we are going to start when the time to start is right and not before then," he said. "I don't have a magic date for that."
Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or email@example.com.
Name: Ernie Passailaigue
Background: Bachelor of arts degree, The Citadel, 1973; masters in business administration, University of South Carolina, 1969; state senator from Charleston for 13 years; three honorary doctorates; certified public accountant
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