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Senate panel approves appointee to head Maryland lottery

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

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

ANNAPOLIS — A Senate panel voted Monday to send the appointment of Maryland’s acting lottery director to the full Senate for a confirmation vote — more than 21 months after Gov. Larry Hogan appointed him to the job.

The Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted in favor of Gordon Medenica’s appointment Monday.

“Under his stewardship, the Maryland Lottery has broken records across the board, resulting in a record $1.08 billion contribution to the Maryland General Fund, the Education Trust Fund, and other good causes,” said Amelia Chasse, the governor’s spokeswoman.

While senators have expressed confidence in Medenica’s experience in a narrow field where expertise can be hard to find, some senators have raised questions about conflicts of interest and his commitment to minority business participation goals. That could lead to some contentious debate in the Senate when his appointment is taken up as soon as this week.

Sen. Joan Conway, who has been Medenica’s chief critic on the panel, voted against his appointment. She let her colleagues know she would have more to say when the appointment comes up for debate.

“I’m waiting for it to come to the floor,” Conway, D-Baltimore, said.

Hogan, a Republican, appointed Medenica to be director of the Maryland Lottery in May 2015. Before his appointment, Medenica worked as a transitional CEO of Northstar New Jersey Lottery Group, which was partly owned by Scientific Games International Inc. He was director of the New York Lottery from 2007 to 2012. Before that, he was a longtime executive at the New York Times Co.

Some senators have questioned Medenica’s former work for the company connected to Scientific Games, which the Maryland Lottery recommended for an eight-year, $262 million contract for the lottery’s central monitoring and control system last year.

The two losing bidders for the Maryland filed protests last year against the lottery’s recommendation, though both companies have since withdrawn their protests.

London-based IGT Global Solutions Corp. had contended the lottery chose the most expensive bidder, inflating the contract for monitoring wagers to include kinds of internet gambling that aren’t even allowed under state law. Gaming Innovations, which is a joint venture with black managers at the top who run the lottery in the District of Columbia, had protested that the lottery showed “undeniable bias.”

Carole Gentry, a spokeswoman for the lottery, said there were only three companies in the world that are qualified for the contract. She said a seven-member committee that did not include Medenica was required to choose the bidder that represents the “best value” to the state.

“This does not mean simply accepting the lowest bid,” Gentry said. “It means selecting the vendor that will perform at the highest level for the state.”

Gentry also said Medenica’s only role was “to ensure that the procurement process had been followed according to Maryland law — not to reevaluate the bids.”

Medenica, while being questioned by Conway at a Jan. 30 hearing, noted that the lottery raised the minority business participation requirement in the contract from 15 percent to 20 percent.

“And then we also extended the deadline for bids by two months so that the potential bidders would have sufficient time to raise that level of minority participation from 15 to 20 percent,” Medenica said.

But Del. Cheryl Glenn, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, wrote in a letter last month that the goal was only raised to 20 percent “after caucus members objected.” In her letter, in which she wrote that the caucus was opposing Medenica’s appointment, Glenn noted that minorities are responsible for 55 to 70 percent of all traditional lottery sales in the state.

Glenn also has criticized Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission for its selection of 15 finalists to grow marijuana, because the chosen companies lack minority ownership.

“There is a growing and deeply held perception that the State of Maryland is averse to (Minority Business Enterprise) participation,” Glenn wrote, adding that’s particularly true about large state contracts.