The Wyoming Lottery Corporation has two sets of skeptics: religious groups and budget hawks.

The Wyoming Lottery Corporation has two sets of skeptics: religious groups and budget hawks.

In some cases its disbelievers are one and the same.

They blocked legislative efforts to spawn a state lottery for more than 20 years. They feared a lottery would be a launching pad for gambling addiction and increased government spending.

But the bill’s proponents persisted. They saw residents crossing state lines to buy Powerball tickets as a missed opportunity. Year by year a greater tally of yes votes sided in favor of the legislation. The scales finally tipped for the lottery in 2013.

The quasi-governmental organization got off the ground in July. A lottery board handpicked by Gov. Matt Mead laid the corporation’s foundation by securing loans, finding real estate and choosing a CEO.

The state’s anti-lottery factions in the Wyoming Capitol are still restless. But the man tapped by the board to lead the Wyoming Lottery Corporation is no stranger to the chapel and a life of discipline.

Jon Clontz is the Wyoming Lottery’s first CEO. He is the son of an Air Force training instructor who retired from military life and became a Baptist preacher.

Clontz's father didn’t object to lotteries. He played one in Kansas until he died.

“My father would say people are responsible for their behavior,” Clontz said.

Clontz is also a veteran. He served in the Army during the Cold War as a surveillance systems operator for military intelligence units.

He completed air assault school, jump school and is a rappel master.

He spent a year in Korea’s demilitarized zone.

Clontz traded a life of military uniforms for business suits two decades ago. He’s spent the past two years as deputy director of the Oregon Lottery and was in the health care sector before that.

He’s 49, married and has two sons. One is 18 the other is 3.

He has a stoic face topped with gray hair.

He’s often mistaken for an older man.

“People ask if my 3-year-old is my grandson,” he said. “That never happens to my wife.”

Clontz is prone to use military time and respond with phrases like “roger that.” His argot is a mix of modern-day business lingo and fastidious military speech.

He uses terms like “performance management systems,” “action plans” and “core deliverables.”

He evaluates employee performance with a three-color grading scale similar to the Department of Homeland Security’s warning system.

Clontz’s daily vernacular also holds the acronym FISH: Fairness. Integrity. Security. Honesty.

Clontz arrived in the Cowboy State with the weight of deadlines and anticipation for getting lottery draw games in the hands of Wyoming players.

Early estimates had the lottery getting off the ground by the beginning of 2014. Others were hoping to see it running by spring. Clontz has nothing set in stone. With all eyes on him, the new CEO is abiding by his own rulebook.

He resorted to his favorite acronym to prove his point.

“I don’t want to promise things I can’t deliver on,” he said. “It goes back to integrity.”

Clontz is no stranger to starting large-scale, public initiatives.

He worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs for more than seven years in Washington. In that time he oversaw the opening of a 300-bed VA hospital, was chief operating officer of the state’s three veterans homes and rolled out a Medicare program that veterans in his state couldn’t access prior to his arrival.

He jumped through hoops implementing the program, he said.

“It was terribly complex and it took a while to do,” Clontz said.

The lottery is bound to throw him through the wringer, too. He is leading the charge to hire designers to create a lottery logo and website. He’s on the hunt for a chief financial officer and IT security along with five other positions. On top of it all, Clontz is in the process of choosing a company that will provide convenience stores and other outlets with lottery equipment.

For companies that outfit lottery games, Wyoming Lottery is one of the last states likely to implement the games of chance. It would be a big score for the nation’s three lottery vendors.

Clontz will release a proposal to the companies in the coming weeks. He won’t meet with any of their representatives until after he chooses the winning company.

“I don’t want to give the perception of imminent propriety,” he said.

In other words, Clontz is abiding by the first letter in his favorite acronym: fairness.

State officials are hopeful the lottery will raise around $20 million per year. A guaranteed $6 million of the earnings will funnel to local governments. At least 45 percent will remain available as prizes.

The initial earnings will repay the bank loans and other expenditures the lottery board incurred to get the quasi-governmental organization off the ground. No taxpayer dollars were spent on the startup.

“Most reasonable people would think all those are good things,” Clontz said. “People are electing to play, not forced to play.”

But lottery critics are worried the $6 million in guaranteed revenues to the state will do little to offset the needs of gambling addicts.

Those who play the most are likely the people who can’t afford it, said Maureen Emrich, chairman of the Wyoming Family Coalition, a group that lobbied against the bill for more than a decade.

“It is people who want to gain something for nothing,” she said.

People who are in tight financial situations might spend extra money on tickets instead of essential items, said Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman

“I am wondering if the millions that are projected for the state and cities will come,” he said. “It sounds good. But I think we got another big monster machine going.”

Clontz was quick to call lottery entertainment rather than a form of gambling.

Playing the lottery isn’t like playing a dice game, he said.

“As a Christian man I don’t think it rises to the same level of concern as other forms of gambling. But I am not judging any of that anyway. A person has to make a decision whether or not they want to play a draw game or not. People should not view it as anything but entertainment.”