When Andrew Klinger decided to take a job as corporate counsel for a state agency, he was essentially playing the odds like someone buying a lottery ticket.
That was less than a year after being admitted to practice of law in Indiana, and it led to his eventually taking an in-house counsel position at the Hoosier Lottery, where he is now the top attorney.
“For someone who always thought I’d be a real estate attorney, how I got into gaming is still kind of a mystery to me,” said the 40-year old lawyer who’s been general counsel for the Hoosier Lottery since 2008, after four years working as a deputy general counsel at the Indiana Gaming Commission. “Some things are just lucky draws.”
Although Klinger had been interested for some time in pursing a legal career, he began working in economic development immediately after earning his undergraduate degree. The Fort Wayne native worked for several years in his hometown before moving to the Indiana Economic Development Commission and eventually deciding he was ready to start law school in 2001.
“I was always interested in pre-law, but sat back and thought I didn’t want to go straight in and didn’t know what I’d go into with a law degree. So, I went into real estate and economic development work and got a practical sense of what I’d do as an attorney with a degree,” Klinger said.
He graduated from Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis in 2004, and worked briefly as a contract attorney with an employment law attorney in Carmel. But before he agreed to start as an associate there, a new opportunity came his way.
“In the spring 2005, the Gaming Commission called out of the blue. I just kind of fell into this,” he said. “I took the chance.”
After a few years there as a deputy general counsel, Klinger said he was ready for the next step and found that at the Hoosier Lottery. There, he became the general counsel. This position is different in that he had several staff attorneys to work with at the Gaming Commission, while he’s the only attorney at the Lottery. That prior position was more regulatory, dealing with private casinos and their licenses, while this is a semi-government agency tasked with maximizing revenues through sales of lottery tickets.
Most of his daily duties include contract review and dealing with vendors and licensing issues, all through the lens of a government agency that must respect open meetings and access laws.
A self-sufficient quasi-public agency that isn’t connected to the state budget, the Hoosier Lottery raises its own revenue and pays its expenses from that. Klinger said about $791 million came in last year, with major expenses paid out for prizes and commissions to retailers and a small percentage on administrative costs. The rest goes back to the state – most recently the Hoosier Lottery put about $190 million into the budget to pay for teacher and public safety pensions and reduce state excise tax. Klinger said the Hoosier Lottery is working on spreading the word about the fiscal value it brings to the state, motivating people to buy tickets.
Litigation is a minimal part of his job, though he does oversee that as general counsel. Most of the legal claims go through the administrative procedures first and typically end up before an administrative law judge, and Klinger said he handles those cases personally.
“In large part, I shield the marketing and sales folk from the political aspect so they can focus on the sales tasks,” he said.
When Klinger started the job, he said the Hoosier Lottery had a large litigation docket that he spent most of his time focusing on. Now, only one lawsuit remains outstanding for the agency – a class-action lawsuit in Marion Superior Court involving two plaintiffs who sued the state lottery for thousands of dollars after they lost playing the Cash Blast game in 2005 and 2006 and claimed the lottery misstated the number and amount of prizes available. The men claimed they were misled by advertising that made the odds of winning seem greater than they were, and last year the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that suit can move forward at trial.
Despite it being such a small aspect of his work as general counsel, Klinger said it’s the litigation and administrative court claims he finds the most interesting. But he also enjoys handling the issues that take him back to his pre-law days, such as real estate and economic development.
The Hoosier Lottery recently moved into a new headquarters on North Meridian Street in Indianapolis and Klinger is proud of his work negotiating and finalizing that 10-year lease.
“That was a game changer for us, and really kept things interesting and took me back to those early days,” he said. “Some people think that working with the lottery is all fun and games… and it’s not, it really is a lot of work.”
While Klinger isn’t allowed to play the Hoosier Lottery, he usually tries to buy a lottery ticket out of state whenever he travels. Although he hasn’t won a jackpot to date, he considers himself lucky to have won the chance to be working where he is.
“In a corporate environment, you’re right there in the middle of everything,” he said. “This is always interesting and different, with something new coming your way, a lot different than what I understand firm life to be like. I’m glad this ticket came my way.”•