Georgia lottery chief stepping down

ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia Lottery Corp. president and CEO Margaret DeFrancisco announced her retirement Wednesday.

DeFrancisco told Atlanta's Channel 2 Action News that it was a "wrenching decision."

She did not set a departure date, though a statement from the Lottery Corp. said DeFrancisco would stay on the job until a successor, chosen by the Lottery Board, is in place. That date "is not imminent or immediate," the statement said. The board's next regular meeting is Oct. 18.

"It's time," DeFrancisco told Channel 2. "We have great momentum in this organization and I want to keep that moving forward."

The announcement comes as the lottery prepares to launch online sales this fall. It also came a day after the corporation said it had surpassed $50 billion in all-time sales.

Gov. Nathan Deal's office and Lottery Board chairman James Braswell released statements praising DeFrancisco.

"She has served the citizens of this state for nearly nine years and we wish her well in her retirement," Deal said in his statement.

Braswell added, "The board of directors is committed to making the necessary transition seamlessly and smoothly."

Deal reappointed Braswell to the board in 2011.

Voters approved the lottery in 1993 as a way to pay for HOPE scholarships, pre-kindergarten expansion and other education projects. Last year, lawmakers cut the HOPE scholarship for all but the state's highest performing students.

Lottery sales for the latest fiscal year were $3.8 billion, up from $2.6 billion in the year before DeFrancisco's arrival.

DeFrancisco's base salary last year was $367,000, and she earned an incentive of $82,689, said lottery spokeswoman Tandi Reddick. DeFrancisco did not have a contract and will receive no severance. She does not qualify for state retirement.