State Lottery Panel Weighs Proposals for Initial Game

Times Staff Writer

The California Lottery Commission listened Monday to sales pitches by entrepreneurs promoting everything from a megabuck multiservices contract to run the entire lottery system to a modest proposal to share in the printing of instant tickets.

No action was taken on the presentations, which were made at the request of the commission in an effort to determine the type of game to be set up as California's first lottery.

It is expected that the commission will select an instant "scratch-off" game to start the state lottery because other options, such as the lotto games with multimillion-dollar jackpots played in Eastern states, require more elaborate computer systems that could take months to set up.

Even the simpler instant games would take 90 to 120 days to put into operation after a contract is awarded to a ticket supplier, according to vendors at the commission meeting. The first instant game, which would be played for about eight weeks before being replaced by a new one, would require the printing of 250,000 to 500,000 tickets, according to vendors.

Awarding of such a ticket contract appears to be weeks away at the earliest. Lottery Commission Chairman Howard Varner said he would prefer to wait for the appointment of a commission director by Gov. George Deukmejian before awarding a contract, but he said the commission would consider going ahead on the matter without a chief executive.

The initiative establishing a state lottery, approved by the voters last Nov. 6, set a start-up deadline of March 21, but that deadline obviously will not be met and no new target date has been set.

Some company representatives at Monday's meeting indicated that their firms are reluctant to take part in lottery bidding unless current strict financial disclosure requirements are relaxed.

Some of the seven firms that made presentations Monday are large companies offering everything from printing lottery tickets to training retailers to mounting promotional campaigns.

On the other end of the spectrum was printer Harry Poll, representing Trade Products Inc. of Seattle. Poll told the commissioners that he would be happy with a contract to print some of the instant tickets and then warned them, in effect, not to get greedy in their attempt to promote and run a highly profitable lottery.

Californians who buy lottery tickets, Poll said, should use "discretionary income . . . amusement income."

"When does that amusement dollar become rent (money)?" he asked. "If you get real good at it (promoting the lottery), you might take more than you want to."

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