Despite Banner Month, Lottery Gives Little to Scholarships, Most to Prizes

The Arkansas Lottery recently released its monthly financial report for March 2021.

The report reveals that the Arkansas Lottery spent only 12% of its gross revenue on scholarships — despite bringing in a record-setting $67.9 million in March.

More than 70% of the Lottery’s revenue went to prizes instead.

For perspective, the typical state lottery budgets approximately 25% – 30% of its revenue for education and about 60% for prizes.

S.B. 649 by Sen. Charles Beckham (R – McNeil) and Rep. Richard Womack (R – Arkadelphia) would require the Arkansas Lottery to increase the percentage of its revenue budgeted for scholarships to 25% over the next six years. This would bring the Arkansas Lottery up to the standards of the typical state-run lottery — and it most likely would provide millions of additional dollars in scholarship funding.

Below is a breakdown of Lottery revenue and prize spending for Fiscal Year 2021.

Scholarship Spending

MonthGross Lottery RevenuePaid to Scholarships% Gross Revenue
January, 202162,994,737.2710,913,192.3217.3%

Prize Spending

MonthGross Lottery RevenueTotal Prizes% Going to Prizes

Good Legislation Filed to Increase Arkansas Lottery’s Scholarship Budget

On Wednesday Sen. Charles Beckham (R – McNeil) and Rep. Richard Womack (R – Arkadelphia) filed S.B. 649.

This is a really good bill that requires the Arkansas Lottery to increase the percentage of its revenue budgeted for scholarships over the next six years.

Right now the Arkansas Lottery allocates around 16% of its gross revenue for scholarships. S.B. 649 would require the Lottery to increase that percentage annually until it reaches 25% in Fiscal Year 2027.

Arkansas should be able to do this.

The typical state lottery budgets approximately 30% of its gross revenue for education; Louisiana requires its lottery to budget at least 25%.

If other states can do it, so can Arkansas.

Proposal Would Legalize Internet Gambling, Keno Under State Lottery

On Monday Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Russellville) filed H.B. 1869 legalizing iLottery and Keno in Arkansas under the auspices of the state-run lottery.

H.B. 1869 would let Arkansans use a smart phone, tablet, computer, or other electronic device to gamble on the Arkansas Lottery via the Internet. It also would permit Keno in Arkansas — which is a controversial casino-style game.

Lottery officials lobbied unsuccessfully for Keno in 2013 and 2014, but lawmakers soundly rejected that proposal.

Keno is different from other lottery games. Drawings for Keno usually take place every few minutes rather than once a day, and the odds of winning a jackpot prize tend to be worse than other lottery games.

Its fast pace makes Keno a popular casino game, because players can pick numbers and place bets over and over again in a short amount of time.

As a result, Keno often is played in a live room full of gamblers.

One of the reasons lawmakers rejected Keno a few years ago is that they did not want the State Lottery creating miniature casinos in bars, convenience stores, and gas stations across Arkansas.

The way H.B. 1869 is written, Arkansas could end up with miniature casinos that offer Keno, and Arkansans may even be able to play Keno non-stop on their cell phones.

If the Arkansas Lottery authorizes Keno — and especially if lottery officials make it possible for people to gamble online — that’s going to increase problem gambling and gambling addiction in Arkansas. That makes H.B. 1869 a bad bill.

Read H.B. 1869 Here.