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Lottery Ad Dispute Settled

A contentious battle over a nearly $80 million advertising contract with the Florida Lottery has been quietly settled.

The end result is that lottery officials on Wednesday signed a new 3-year contract with St. John & Partners Advertising and Public Relations to create and place the ads meant to entice people into playing the various games offered by the Florida Lottery.

The Jacksonville company had been named the winning bidder earlier this year, but the contract had been put on hold because rival firm Zimmerman Advertising contended that lottery officials mishandled the bidding process and should have disqualified St. John.

“We always stood behind our decision,’’ said Jackie Barreiros, the public affairs director for the Lottery who was one of the three officials who ranked the bidders. “At the end of the day this was wrangling between two competitors. We’re glad it’s over.’’

Why the bid dispute has ended isn’t quite clear. The ongoing legal challenge over the contract was withdrawn on Wednesday. The court documents state that Zimmerman and St. John “have agreed to amicably resolve and settle this matter” but it provides no further detail.

Barreiros said that the Florida Lottery has not changed the terms of its contract with St. John and said that the Lottery has not been asked to let Fort Lauderdale-based Zimmerman become a subcontractor on the contract.

Michael Goldberg, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Zimmerman, would not say much about the settlement either, saying he could provide no details other than “we have resolved our dispute” and that the legal challenge had ended.

Zimmerman has been represented in Tallahassee the last few months by the high-powered lobbying firm of Smith & Ballard, which was paid as much as $10,000 to represent the firm during the last quarter, according to recently-filed lobbyist disclosure forms. St. John & Partners hired David Rancourt of Southern Strategy Group just days after Zimmerman filed its bid dispute back in July.

The dispute heated up quickly because attorneys for St. John & Partners demanded the law firm first hired by Zimmerman be thrown off the case. Law firm Foley & Lardner agreed to bow out a few days later. Other court documents showed that law firms hired by both companies sparred over a whole host of evidence.

The ad contract is an important one for the Florida Lottery during a time when it is battling declining sales in many of its games other than Powerball. This year the Lottery was given $30.2 million to spend directly on advertising, which includes TV, radio and print advertising in both English and Spanish. St. John was selected to oversee the main contract worth up to $24 million this year. State legislators set aside an additional $3.48 million which can be spent directly on ad agency fees.

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