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Mississippi hires experienced executive for its new lottery

In this Tuesday, May 7, 2019 photo, Thomas N. Shaheen, a veteran lottery director and inaugural president of the Mississippi Lottery, speaks of his expectations for agency growth, in Jackson, Miss. Shaheen begins June 1 and will oversee operations as Mississippi prepares to join most other states in offering scratch-off tickets and other game of chance. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Lottery Corporation announced Wednesday that it is hiring an experienced executive as its first president.

Thomas N. “Tom” Shaheen, 66, begins June 1 and will oversee operations as Mississippi prepares to join most other states in offering scratch-off tickets and other games of chance.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday in Jackson, Shaheen said Mississippi could start selling lottery tickets by the end of this year.

“We’ll work at a pace to get it started off as quickly as possible because the sooner we get started, the more money that is for roads and bridges,” he said.

Mississippi had been one of six states without a lottery, and churches were longtime opponents of creating one. But as the state faced increasing problems with crumbling highways and bridges, lawmakers met in special session in August and voted to start a lottery to generate money for transportation.

Shaheen was among about 20 applicants for the Mississippi job, and was one of three finalists interviewed. All five board members agreed to hire him, and Gov. Phil Bryant approved the selection, board chairman Mike McGrevey said.

Shaheen will move from Arizona to Mississippi for the job that has a base salary of $225,000 a year. The board said he also will be eligible for performance incentives.

Shaheen has most recently worked as vice president and chief policy officer of a lottery technology company, Linq3. He was executive director the North Carolina Education Lottery from 2005 to 2010, and before that was chief executive officer of the New Mexico Lottery. He also worked for lotteries in Georgia, Texas and Florida as they were starting.

He is a former president of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball.

Shaheen said he expects about 1,500 Mississippi convenience stores, grocery stores and drug stores to apply to sell lottery tickets. They will undergo background checks that include an examination of their finances.

Mississippi will have to apply to become part of multi-state games, and Shaheen said that process could happen next year.

The Mississippi Lottery will hire its own employees, including those to work on technology and financial matters. It also will set contracts to produce items such as scratch-off tickets.

“The quicker we get those vendors on board, the quicker we can get sales started,” Shaheen said.

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