June 24, 2018
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Foolhardy ideas for lottery, liquor

Maine State Lottery | BDN
Maine State Lottery | BDN
A proposed advertisement given to retailers by the Maine State Lottery, which planned to brand its instant scratch tickets as Kwikies. The state lottery has since decided against the Kwikies name.
By Mike Peters, Special to the BDN

However the lottery spells “Kwikie,” does it really matter? It still sounds the same to the ear. A quickie is slang for a quick sex act. Period. It is part of our national vernacular. The governor was not going to change that. The lottery director was not going to change that. The entire state of Maine was not going to change that. By Monday, enough people complained to force the governor and the lottery to back off. Thus an end to a very shortsighted idea.

As former chairman of the Maine Liquor and Lottery Commission, when the concept of calling scratch tickets Kwikies was first presented to us, I voiced loud and continuous opposition to the proposal. Director Gerry Reid told me that the concept had been field tested and that everyone agreed it was a brilliant relabeling. When I protested further, I was told the governor was 100 percent behind the new term and that they were going forward.

The governor was totally wrong. So much for field testing. Now, thousands of marketing dollars poorer, we can call a scratch ticket a scratch ticket and leave the mindless changing of our vernacular to others.

I resigned from the liquor and lottery commission in February. The folks who run the show are good people, but some of their ideas, like the above, border on ridiculous. Gov. Paul LePage calls the Legislature a group of juveniles. He says he admires folks who tell it like it is, but if you disagree with him he says he won’t sign legislation until he gets his way. At liquor and lottery, it is much the same. They do what this governor wants.

This business with scratch tickets shows just how damaging modern marketers can be. Causing embarrassment to customers and lottery sales agents would not increase lottery sales.

In a separate but related matter, the vilification of Maine Beverage, and allowing companies to bid on a contract that have no verifiable long-term track record in the beverage distribution business, is foolhardy at best. It will not increase liquor sales or gain back our lost New Hampshire sales. Our state, along with its wholesale supplier of liquor Maine Beverage, has built a more than $50 million liquor business, and it should not be run by people without the expertise to do the job.

Hasn’t anyone had enough? When I travel out of state, it is not pleasant to be asked about the latest silly statements from the mouth of our current governor. Gov. John Baldacci may not have been all things to all people, but at least he was a gentleman. When Maine posts a sign that says “open for business,” it must project policies and attitudes that are signals of welcoming to job creators. No one wants to bring a company to Maine and be laughed at nationally for doing so.

Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, has presented a good idea. It is time for the governor to do the right thing for Maine people. Yes, pay the hospitals. however, at the same time, lets protect the interests of Maine with “must haves” in any request for proposals for companies to run the state’s wholesale liquor business. “Must haves” include that the winner must have the proven experience to continue to increase the value of Maine’s liquor business and must have the financial ability to ensure success without risk to Maine.

One final thing: Baldacci is being criticized for selling the state short on the last liquor contract. Nothing could be more untrue. Baldacci understood the need to fill a $1.3 billion budget gap. He correctly noted a seriously under-performing liquor business with a very unpredictable revenue stream. He stepped up and put the business out to lease. Four strong companies bid. If the business was worth so much more in 2003, why didn’t the other three companies bid higher? Simple. The value wasn’t there.

Maine Beverage has doubled the value of our liquor business. We need that kind of management going forward. These things cannot be accomplished by bullies offering “Kwikies” or governors who stomp their feet and demand obedience.

Mike Peters, of Dixfield, is former chairman of the Maine Liquor and Lottery Commission and a former member of the Maine Gambling Control Board.

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