Q and A with: Charlie McIntyre, New Hampshire Lottery

In June, Charlie McIntyre became the new executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery. He came directly from the Massachusetts Lottery, where for seven years, he was its legal counsel. Prior to that, he was an organized crime prosecutor.

McIntyre joins the lottery during times of celebration and concern. The New Hampshire Lottery, which produces around $230 million in gross revenues annually, was the first modern-day lottery when it began in 1964 and it’s most popular game, the Tri-State Megabuck, celebrates its 25 anniversary this year.

More recently, the lottery has experienced declining sales and has found itself at odds with key members of the legislature over a proposed on-line game.

At 42, McIntyre is full of enthusiasm and wants to improve the product lines, build strong relations with the retailers and keep the trust of the players.

Q. You came from the Massachusetts Lottery, but before that you were a prosecutor. Isn’t that an interesting background for a lottery chief?

A. It’s kind of funny. I was for several years a prosecutor for narcotics and organized crime. When I was appointed legal counsel to the Massachusetts Lottery, the defense bar howled. They thought I was switching sides, but there is a lot of symmetry to it. When I was prosecutor, I regulated illegal gambling; now I’m regulating legal gambling. I have a real sense of what people want when they gamble. I’ve seen it from both sides.

Q. You must have a Whitey Bulger story.

A. Mr. Bulger was part of a group that claimed a winning lottery ticket. He approached the actual winner and told him, “We’re now partners,” and compensated him accordingly. He needed a legitimate source of income, since the IRS was doing life-style audits. After he was indicted and went on the lam, every year after that I’d get a phone call from the U.S. Marshall’s office and they’d pick up his check.

Q. You’ve got a few months under your belt. How’s the new job?

A. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been fun. There is a lot of potential here and some great employees. My job is to find out what the players and retailers want in terms of what they want to play. We don’t sell anything; the retailers sell everything. We’re basically a wholesaler and need to be focused on assisting the retailers and running an efficient operation.

Q. How’s it different working in Massachusetts government versus New Hampshire?

A. It’s odd. Massachusetts is very different with its levels of separation. I worked for the state treasurer and he runs his own shop. Here it’s singular with far more local involvement. I think it’s part of the New Hampshire culture. There is more day-to-day, hands-on involvement with the overall government.

Q. The Tri-State Megabucks celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

A. Twenty-five years ago the first multi-state game was established. Three states got together to do something different. I’m a caretaker of a legacy and everything that has gone before me. Although lotteries were around since 1790 often to benefit colleges, they fell out of favor because of rampant corruption. It was difficult starting the first modern-day lottery in the U.S. with Gov. John King and the first executive director Edward Powers.

It’s important that people believe in the integrity of the system. That it’s fair and they’re going to be paid if they win. If there is ever any doubt in my mind, my philosophy is to pay them. Always err on the side of the winner. If we’re in court with a player, we’ve already lost.

Q. You’ve been in the news with the reversal of a proposed on-line game. What happened?

A. It wasn’t a reversal on my part. I arrived the day after it broke (the news that legislative leaders were upset for not being informed of the new game).

The game was a new twist on an old technology. Apparently some members of the legislature hadn’t been properly notified, and it was a mistake. It wasn’t worth what it would have taken to get it up and running, and I had other things to focus on. We have diminishing sales and this game wasn’t going to reverse it.

Q. What’s causing declining sales?

A. It’s never one thing. The economy isn’t helping obviously, and there’s the 10 percent lottery tax on winnings over $600. That has the exact opposite effect. Ultimately, it is the failure to refresh the product line. We need to do something different. A key driver is innovation. We need make the playing fun and interesting.

Q. When a person buys a lottery ticket, what are they purchasing?

A. It really depends on who they are. Some folks like to gamble and others a little bit here and there. We see a lot of offices, where employees pool their money and buy lots of tickets.

As with all lottery employees, I’m prohibited from playing here, but on the occasion when my wife and I were in Rhode Island, we’d buy tickets and on the drive home, we’d speculate as to what we’d do with the money. For me, that’s the fun of it.

Q. And there is no responsibility. I understand that it can ruin some people.

A. I’ve sat with a single woman who just won a cash payout of $174 million. I told her this is a life-changing event. You have to move. It’s free money and people will expect to get it from you. No one is born knowing how to deal with that kind of money. I said listen, you have an orchard now. Live off of what it produces; do not down the trees for firewood.

Q. Doesn’t the lottery promote the idea that success is a chance; not about hard work and the slow accumulation of wealth?

A. We hope people play responsibly. It’s really more of an entertainment source. It’s about having fun. I believe in self determination. I drink enough Diet Pepsi to affect the stock price. I’ve been informed that it’s not good for me. It’s my right as a citizen to drink as much as I want.

Q. The replay system allows losing ticket-holders to submit them for another drawing, but along the way, you gather some interesting information about players. Tell me about that?

A. It’s a great tool for gathering information about our customers. There is a misconception that lottery players are really poor and buying lottery tickets instead of food.

In Massachusetts, the average lottery player makes $55,000 to $77,000 a year — well above the average per capita income.

We’re not preying on anybody. These are intelligent people, who know what they’re doing. It’s discretionary income; they just want to play the lottery. It’s just that simple.

Q. What about the notion that a large windfall of unearned money ruins people?

A. The best part of my job is giving money away. It’s also about understanding the responsibility that goes with it. If you didn’t make smart choices when you didn’t have much money, you’re not going to make them when you have a lot.

There are good and bad stories. A winner of a large amount of money needs to have good advisors. If you were unhappy with one dollar, you’re not going to be happy with two. It’s not going to make you happy; it gives you freedom to do other things.