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July 6, 2018

After nearly two years, CT Lotto has permanent CEO

LinkedIn A photo of Gregory Smith from his LinkedIn profile.
HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever Chelsea Turner, the Connecticut Lottery's interim leader since last May, will assume the role of interim vice president, now that a permanent CEO has been selected.

After nearly 23 months without a permanent CEO, Connecticut Lottery Corp. board members on Thursday selected an Illinois lottery executive to fill the top post at the lottery's Rocky Hill headquarters.

Gregory Smith, who is currently acting executive director of the Illinois Lottery, will begin as Connecticut lottery president and CEO effective July 20, officials at the quasi-public agency announced Thursday.

The selection ends a search that lasted over a year and was delayed several times. One candidate last year dropped out of contention, and another bailed in January after a botched New Year’s Day drawing left many ticket buyers with no chance of winning and generated negative headlines.

The appointment of Lottery Chairman Donald DeFronzo last August also caused some delay, DeFronzo told HBJ in an April interview, as he wanted to review the ongoing search process. In addition, several other factors gave some applicants pause, including that a new governor will take office in 2019 and that some lawmakers have  discussed changing the structure of Connecticut’s lottery, perhaps by moving it into the teacher's pension system to help pay down unfunded liabilities.

Chelsea Turner has been serving as interim president and CEO since last May. Her appointment followed the resignations of two prior leaders who were criticized over the lottery's handling of a since discontinued game called 5 Card Cash, which officials suspected was susceptible to retailer fraud.

Prior interim CEO Frank Farricker stepped in after the lottery's last permanent CEO, Ann M. Noble, resigned in Aug. 2016, assuming a $25,000-per-month consulting role at the lottery that was criticized by some lawmakers.

Turner will now assume the role of acting vice president, the lottery said.

DeFronzo had strong praise for Turner on Thursday.

"She has taken an agency with a damaged image and improved its standing with the public, improved its financial performance to record levels, endured what most of us believe have been unfair criticisms, and has helped to establish the CLC as one of the best performing lotteries in the country," he said.

Prior to assuming his current Illinois post in 2016, Smith served as director of the Vermont Lottery for about four years. Before that, he oversaw 250 employees as operations director of the Vermont Country Store.

DeFronzo said that with the selection of Smith, the lottery is “clearly defining” its objectives, including “a commitment to integrity in operations at all levels.”

“In selecting an individual with Greg’s mix of experience and skill we expect to change the face of the Lottery and to move forward with innovative measures that will propel the CLC to the forefront of gaming operations national resulting in expanded growth for the CLC,” he said.

Smith’s appointment comes as the lottery is working to envision what it’s future mix of business will look like. It has lobbied the legislature to allow it to offer online lottery products as well as sports betting, which it says would both help ensure future revenue growth. The lottery also plans to revamp its advertising and messaging through a recently signed contract with two area marketing firms.

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