STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
THE MASSACHUSETTS LOTTERY plans to try a change of scenery, moving its administrative staff from its longtime headquarters in Braintree a few miles north to Dorchester.
Putting the roughly 140 headquarters staff near UMass-Boston and within walking distance of the Red Line could appeal to a more diverse and younger workforce, according to Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who heads up the Lottery Commission.
The Lottery would occupy more than 32,000 square feet at 150 Mount Vernon Street, with roughly $1.4 million in annual rent for the first few years. In the tenth and final year of the lease with Corcoran Jennison, the cost would be $1.6 million annually, according to the Lottery.
“The cost is significantly higher than the old lease,” Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney acknowledged during Tuesday’s commission meeting. The 10-year lease would cost a total of $15.2 million.
Rep. Mark Cusack, a Braintree Democrat, said he wanted to learn more about the reasons for the move and said any extra cost would come out of the profits the Lottery distributes as local aid.
“There has to be some basis why they think this is in the best interest of the Commonwealth,” Cusack said.
The Lottery’s offices, grand prize claim center and warehouse have been located on Columbian Street in Braintree since 1994; that lease ends next January.
The total lease for the Braintree location is $2.2 million per year, according to a Treasury official.
Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan, who formerly ran the Lottery under former Treasurer Tim Cahill, said he thinks the Lottery could have kept its headquarters in Braintree and it is his understanding that the warehouse and other functions will remain in the current space.
“It is the treasurer’s prerogative. This move was a Treasury decision,” Sullivan told the News Service. He said, “I’m disappointed. Braintree’s always had a strong relationship with the Lottery and that will remain in part.”
The Lottery has been located somewhere in Braintree since the agency was established, according to the mayor.
Goldberg hinted that some Lottery functions would remain in Braintree, saying future decisions might make “local officials very pleased.”
“I wish the entire operation had stayed here. I think we’ve been a good host community,” said Sullivan, who said there are a total of 220 employees at the Lottery’s headquarters.
Rep. Nick Collins, a South Boston Democrat, who is the lone Democrat in the running in a special Senate election for the district encompassing the new Lottery location, declined to comment.
Tom McKeever, secretary-treasurer of SEIU Local 888, told the commission that he didn’t want the Lottery to move out of its Braintree offices and he would have liked the union to have more of a say in the process.
“The membership does not want to move,” McKeever told the commission, asking the group to put off a decision.
“Inclusion is always better from the beginning,” Goldberg agreed.
Sweeney cautioned that if there was a delay there would be “ramifications” on the plans to build out the new space over 39 weeks.
The State Lottery Commission voted unanimously to authorize the Lottery to execute the new lease.
Saying that the average age of Lottery employees is “quite high,” Goldberg said the commute to Braintree has been an impediment to recruiting younger staff. The treasurer said that many offices in the Braintree location lack windows while there would be ample natural light in Dorchester.
Goldberg said the move had nothing to do with changes to the marijuana law, which removed regulation of the new industry from her office.
“I take the treasurer at her word that these two issues aren’t linked because they’ve never been linked for me,” said Cusack, the House chairman of the Committee on Marijuana Policy.
Goldberg has advocated for authorization to move Lottery products online in part to appeal to younger people. Year-to-date net profit for the first eight months of fiscal 2018 was $672.7 million, down from $723.7 million at that point last year.
Lottery officials on Tuesday were buoyed by the success of a $10 “blowout” instant ticket game, which offers prizes of $50, $100 and $500. The $43.7 million in sales over four weeks is the highest sales figures since 2006, according to the agency.