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TRENTON — Four companies interested in running portions of the New Jersey Lottery attended a mandatory information session in Trenton on Thursday, the first step toward privatization.

The state Treasury Department is looking to hand over sales and marketing operations to a private vendor next year. The state would retain ownership of the lottery under the plan, and state employees would continue to manage its operations, though those jobs are not guaranteed.

New Jersey has the eighth-largest state lottery in the country and employs 150 people, most of whom manage the network of lottery retailers.

The state thinks a privately managed lottery could bring in more revenue, which it shares with education and social services programs. Last year, the lottery grossed $2.8 billion in revenue, and $950 million of it was directed to state programs and institutions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports