Five minutes with ... Maryland Lottery chief Gordon Medenica

Like other employees in his agency, Maryland lottery director Gordon Medenica isn’t permitted to play state lottery games.

But, in a sense, he is playing the odds.

Medenica’s calculations aren’t about trying to win the Pick 4 or a scratch-off game. Rather, he’s often examining statistics and trends from other states before introducing new games he hopes will be embraced in Maryland.

“The lottery industry is a very cooperative, sharing industry,” said Medenica, who also oversees the state’s six casinos. “We don’t compete directly with one another. There is a huge exchange of information.”

A recent “play” by Medenica turned out to be a winner.

Prior to last year, the highest-priced “scratch-off’ ticket sold in Maryland was $20.

Medenica gambled that Marylanders — like lottery players in more than a dozen other states with tickets costing at least $30 — would buy a more expensive ticket with a higher top prize.

In November, Maryland approved a $30 ticket with a $2 million top prize — a state high for scratch-off tickets. The ticket debuted Feb. 27 and already accounts for 11.6 percent of overall instant tickets since then, according to the lottery.

“Our $30 [ticket] has just gone gangbusters for us,” Medenica said.

The scratch-offs, or instant tickets, have become increasingly popular in the state, which also offers Powerball, Keno, Pick 3, Pick 4 and a variety of other games. Players seem to like knowing immediately whether they won or lost.

Instant tickets account for about 35 percent of total lottery sales, and Medenica said he hopes to increase that percentage substantially through marketing.

“Most of our advertising budget goes to instants,” he said.

Medenica was named by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2015 to head the Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, which has about 325 employees and an operating budget of about $100 million.

The former New York State Lottery chief’s appointment wasn’t approved by the Senate until this year. Critics questioned why a $263 million lottery contract went to Scientific Games — the highest bidder — and said the vendor hasn’t done enough minority hiring. The lottery said Medenica approved the contract decision on the recommendation of an independent panel that determined the company “was the most technically qualified and would be the most financially advantageous for the state.”

Medenica was named to lead New York’s lottery by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007 and held the post for five years. He later became a consultant to the lottery and gaming industries. He also is a former New York Times executive and served on the leadership team of a company that owned the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

He has an unusual hobby. “When I was a young man I was very serious about trying to become a race car driver,” he said.

He didn’t make a career of it. But he’s active in the vintage racing scene and periodically races in events.

“It’s old guys and old cars,” he said.

GORDON MEDENICA

Title: Director, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency

Age: 65

Education: Harvard College (1973), Harvard Business School (MBA, 1979)

Residence: Locust Point

Birthplace: Germany

Family: wife Ann Connolly, two adult daughters

Interests/hobbies: Tennis, skiing, driving old race cars

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