JEFFERSON CITY — The state’s longest-serving lottery chief announced Thursday she was leaving the job, saying the Missouri Legislature’s ongoing attempts to slash the agency’s budget had soured her on the post.
May Scheve-Reardon, 57, has served as lottery director for more than 13 years after being appointed to the post by former Gov. Jay Nixon. She intends to stay through July 29.
Her announcement came during a meeting of the Missouri Lottery Commission, in which she and lottery staff outlined the effects of budget cuts to the agency’s advertising and promotion budget.
The spending plan sent to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk includes a reduction in advertising and an elimination of funds used to promote the lottery at St. Louis Cardinals games, the Forest Park Balloon Festival, St. Louis Blues games and other events.
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Those events last year helped generated more than $782,000 last year.
In 2021, budget writers reduced a $1.5 million advertising budget to $400,000. This year, they cut the remaining funds.
“We used all the tools that every other lottery uses. And those tools are being taken away from us,” said Scheve-Reardon, who served in the Legislature prior to taking the lottery job.
Her announcement brought criticism of the General Assembly from members of the Lottery Commission.
“Corporations that do well aren’t stopping their advertising,” said commission chairman Lance Mayfield. “I congratulate her on enduring this year.”
“I would hope the people in this room would think about the next time you cast a vote and who it is for and what that might mean for the lottery,” Mayfield said.
Commission member Bob Gattermeir said lawmakers were short-sighted in their decision to reduce dollars used to market the lottery, which helps fund education in Missouri.
“They need to be educated,” Gattermeir said. “I have found you have to spend money if you want to make money.”
Although the lottery is on target to surpass transferring $400 million to education, after transferring $345 million last year, Scheve-Reardon is worried a combination of the budget cuts and the spread of illegal slot machines in gas stations and bars could begin to chip away at revenues.
“Our lack of advertising is starting to affect our sales,” Scheve-Reardon said.
The commission also bemoaned the lack of action by the Legislature on cracking down on the video lottery machines, which are unregulated and do not contribute money to the state’s education fund.
The biggest champion of ridding the state of the games, Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, is term-limited and is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
And, said Scheve-Reardon, political contributions by gaming companies are increasing.
“That is a lot of news that is hard to take,” Mayfield said.
“We are in dire straits moving forward,” Scheve-Reardon said. “By mid-summer we will be swimming in these machines. We are very, very concerned about this trend.”
Commissioner John Hemeyer said the companies will continue to roll out games at stores until they are stopped by a law or new legislation.
“They are going to do it as long as they can get away with it,” Hemeyer said.
Mayfield said he has not yet laid out a plan to hire a new director.
Scheve-Reardon, who earned $127,000 last year, said she is not sure what she will do next. She plans to stay at the lottery until July 29.
“I’m looking for my next great adventure,” she said. “I’m going to go out with my head held high. I’m kind of very excited. It’s been an amazing journey.”
Posted at 2:50 p.m. Thursday, June 2.