Georgia Lottery chief goes after next big game

Georgia Lottery chief Margaret DeFrancisco tries to stay ahead of the pack.

Margaret DeFrancisco

Margaret DeFrancisco

In the lottery’s sprawling downtown offices, DeFrancisco wheels around on a kid’s scooter with a bell on the handlebars so she can avoid “close calls” with the walking crowd. And with the pressure mounting as demand for lottery revenue for HOPE scholarships and pre-k outstrips its growth, she’s searching for new sources of money.

Down the road, DeFrancisco said, don’t be surprised if interactive lottery games appear on one of your mobile devices. A national drawing, possibly one big pop a year with a huge payoff, also has been talked about among lottery chiefs around the country, she said.

Oops. DeFrancisco then clammed up during our interview last week.

“I’m way out there. I’m probably on a limb and I’m probably sawing it,” said DeFrancisco, president of the lottery industry’s trade group.

Last week, the Georgia Lottery reported a 12th straight year of raising more money for HOPE and pre-k than it did the previous year. But despite the 1.4 percent increase to $884 million, the demands on the funds are growing faster, making future cuts in HOPE likely.

“We are at a crossroads to keep this whole thing moving,” DeFrancisco, 61, said. “We have to offer fun, relevant, exciting products constantly.”

That means coming up with new games to keep players’ interest. For example, Georgia and 10 other states joined the Powerball drawing this year, bringing the total to 44 lotteries. At the same time, Mega Millions, which Georgia already participated in, grew from 12 to 42 lotteries.

“I pitched the heck out of this thing” with her counterparts in other locales, DeFrancisco said. The reason — more participating states mean larger jackpots, which will attract additional ticket buyers.

The lottery’s sweet spot, she said, is offering a jackpot of at least $100 million. That threshold was crossed 27 times since Powerball and Mega Millions expanded earlier this year — up from only 12 times during a comparable period last year.

Besides new games, DeFrancisco and her team need to get the “product mix” right so they can transfer the most money to HOPE and pre-k. Instant scratch-off games pay out between 52 percent and 78 percent to the winners, while drawings pay out about 50 percent.

“It’s a very delicate balance … to maximize the experience for the players and maximize the profit for HOPE and pre-k,” DeFrancisco said.

While trying to come up with that balance, she has been criticized for what some see as an imbalance — $2.7 million in bonuses that she and the other 280 lottery employees received at a time of big education cuts.

DeFrancisco defends the incentive payments, saying the lottery operates like a private company that needs to reward salespeople and marketers to stimulate the most revenue. While this issue is not going away, the money represents less than one-tenth of a percent of the $3.6 billion in revenue.

There’s a bigger issue: “Everyone wants to send their kids to pre-k and college for free,” she said. “What will take us to the next level and keep us relevant?”

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19 comments Add your comment

Idiots

July 20th, 2010
6:47 am

God forbid we play a little poker on an offshore gaming website or participate an office NCAA pool. But when it comes to the lottery, boy those conservatives suddenly forget all that bible stuff and foam at the mouth.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

mike

July 20th, 2010
7:41 am

Once again the State Gov’t refuses to join the rest of the nation. The fix for the Hope Scholarships, Pre-K, tax revenue, job growth, restarting the retail industry, filling the huge void in the office markets, is allowing us Georgians to vote on Casino Gambling. Build a “mini” Vegas strip in West Atlanta. This will kick start our economy like nothing else. This will re-build our convention business. Business leaders will come back to our city, move thier businesses back to our region. Houses will be built and sold, the retail market will rise again. Unemployment will go down. New industries will locate to our region. Growth, growth, growth…..TAX REVENUE!!!!! No more budget short falls. Get off your back ends lawmakers! Think outside the Box! Welcome to the 21st Century.

Christy

July 20th, 2010
8:56 am

why dont we just remove the power and water and live like we did 100 years ago might as well….

Calvin G. Sims, Sr.

July 20th, 2010
9:07 am

DITTO, Mike…Everything you said.

Go Falcons!!!

Pam

July 20th, 2010
9:09 am

I play the lottery, probably more than I should sometimes, but since I’m not smart enough to make one million dollars on my own, I have to get it some other way. I have been unemployed since December, so I have cut back. A lot. But being able to play a game for money on your cell phone? Maybe not such a good idea. I can see employee production in companies going down dramatically since employees can use their mobile devices privately a lot easier at their desks than their computers.

aquarius

July 20th, 2010
9:31 am

I don’t care what percentage of total revenue the bonuses are. It is outrageous that lottery employees, and especially DeFrancisco, are allowed to give themselves huge bonuses while people like teachers, firefighters and police officers are being laid off. The lottery employees already make salaries that most people can only dream about and the justification that huge incentives are needed to retain them is absurd. Does DeFrancisco really think the employees would up and quit with the unemployement rate at 10% if they did not get a bonus? If they are stupid enough to quit, let them go. It would be no problem whatsoever to replace them considering the many thousands out of work.

Pryncess

July 20th, 2010
10:35 am

It’s getting worst and worst. Temptation right in our hands now. I’m waiting on the day that porn is on regular television.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

July 20th, 2010
10:38 am

I want to win a big jackpot, so I can retire early. I’ve already got a good plan in place, but retiring tomorrow would be preferable to waiting another 20 years.

Kyng

July 20th, 2010
10:39 am

It’s “worse and worse.” Once you have “worst,” there is no possibility of “and worst.” Thanks.

Lanie

July 20th, 2010
1:58 pm

OH, YES!!! Why don’t we play the lottery on our phones so that we can really injury and kill people on the roads while we are looking down and deciding what game to play as we cross the center line!!! CRAZY!!!!!

Kyle

July 20th, 2010
2:06 pm

How about a little college and pro football betting. Imagine how much money they would make then and talk about keeping us interested in the lottery. There would be lines out the doors on Saturday and Sunday trying to run their tickets to pick their teams to cover the spread. They will never do it though. They will just keep coming up with average ideas that will only make average money in comparison.

Dave

July 20th, 2010
2:09 pm

Lots and lots of crybabies on this blog, and that’s with only 11 comments. Makes you go hmmmmmmmm.

UGA Alum

July 20th, 2010
4:34 pm

hey aquarius,

the lottery corporation is a private business. If they want to pay bonuses so be it. Most corporations pay bonuses to retain good employees. I am sorry for the people who are losing their jobs, but since when is paying bonuses wrong. Nobody forces people to play the lottery. After all the lottery is a tax on Stupid people;and I want to thank all the stupid people for putting my son through college.

Walt

July 21st, 2010
8:50 am

Maybe the Lottery shouldn’t be a private corporation if the executives are going to abuse it that way. Defrancisco only earned $130,000 salary as the director of the NY Lottery, the most profitable lottery in the United States. When she came to Georgia, she doubled her base salary and with bonuses probably quadrupled it. Privatized lotteries have very little oversight and do pretty much what they want. Georgia’s lottery should be made into a state agency with lower salaries and no bonuses. If those people think they can get that big payday elsewhere, good ridance to them.

quake

July 27th, 2010
10:35 am

i like your idea Mike!!! sounds plausible to me-but waaay too progressive for our pseudo-religious politicians!

dixie darling

July 28th, 2010
10:41 am

Hey you guys – ever watch that documentary about the lives of people who actually WIN the lotteries. Not many are happy in the long run. Sure they are overjoyed when winning and getting the BIG check, but their lives change so dramatically they wish they had not won. Only a small number really do good things with their winnings and keep their family and friends. There is something that occurs to change a person (or people) once they hit the BIG ONE. But I still buy tickets when the lottery gets high — surely I can handle the money better that those losers who win!

Dave

September 7th, 2010
2:48 pm

Enter your comments here

Dave

September 7th, 2010
2:49 pm

You are so right, Dixie-Darling. That “something that occurs” is greedy friends and family and a winner who doesn’t know how to say “NO!”