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Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency Director Gordon Medenica (File)

Md. gaming director adds positions, shuffles chairs

Six months after being named the director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, Gordon Medenica announced Thursday he is expanding his senior management team.

The two newly created positions — chief operating officer and chief marketing officer — are part of a number of personnel changes Medenica said will more closely align the agency with its core missions: growing lottery sales and opening the state’s sixth and final casino.

Medenica explained the changes Thursday to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, which oversees the agency one day after announcing the changes to staff.

James R. Neilson, director of gaming in New York, will start at the end of the month in the newly created role of chief operating officer.

“In spite of being the head of gaming, he has a strong lottery background of 30 years,” Medenica said. “I describe Jim as being bilingual in both lottery and gaming.”

Neilson is currently the acting director of the New York State Gaming Division. Medenica was the lottery director there for five years from 2007-2012. He is expected to be directly involved in the search for a new company to complete a massive overhaul of the lottery’s central hardware and software systems, including replacing every terminal at all retail outlets in the state.

“Jim has done these conversions before, both on the lottery side and the vendor side,” Medenica said. “He knows both sides of this business extremely well and will be very much a huge resource in conducting FRP and managing the implementation of the conversion.”

Neilson’s salary for the new job was not immediately available. Salaries of state employees are public by law, but Medenica said he would not release it until Neilson started in the new position.

“You’re going to have to wait 10 days,” he said.

Medenica also announced the creation of a new chief marketing officer for the lottery.

“My sense is that the biggest need we have is a much greater focus on marketing,” Medenica said, in disclosing he plans to hire an interim marketing head to create and define the office and assist in finding a permanent replacement.

Medenica said he has a candidate in mind and could make an announcement as soon as the end of the week.

Medenica said he met recently with state budget officials and has put in “a significant request for advertising funds.”

“I think we made a very good argument about why it’s money well spent,” he said.

The changes announced by Medenica come six months after Gov. Larry Hogan hired him to run the agency that oversees all legal gambling in the state.

Medenica said the new hires and shuffling of positions and job descriptions will bring the agency more in line with four areas he believes should be its focus.

Among those is growing the sale of scratch-off instant tickets, which have been a driver in lottery sales in Maryland and other states. In Maryland, those tickets make up about 30 percent of current lottery sales compared to other states where those tickets are half of traditional lottery sales.

“Our sense is that the instant ticket category is where we have a lot of headroom,” Medenica said. “So we want to maintain that momentum going forward because we see that as the biggest growth area for profitability and sales on the lottery side.”

The agency will also be seeking to expand the number of outside retail sites and will designate staff to grow corporate sales sites with national chains such as convenience stores. Currently, there are 4,562 lottery retailers in the state.

“Looking at industry benchmarks, we’re slightly under-retailed in Maryland,” Medenica said, adding that he would like to grow the number of retailers by about 500.

“We know what the goal is, and now we need to test it,” he said