Will the Arkansas Lottery Resurrect Its Plans for Keno?

As Mark Twain is credited with saying, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

On Thursday the Arkansas Legislature’s Lottery Oversight subcommittee met to review reports from the Arkansas Lottery’s director and consulting firm.

Among other topics, legislators heard about ways the Arkansas Lottery could grow revenue in the future.

One of the charts shown to lawmakers appeared to highlight Keno as a lottery game for Arkansas to consider.

We’ve been down this road before.

Lottery officials lobbied for Keno in 2013 and 2014 as part of an unsuccessful push to bring “monitor games” — casino-style gambling machines — to Arkansas.

Lawmakers soundly rejected that proposal.

In a typical Keno drawing, players choose upwards of 10 or 20 different numbers between 1 and 80. If their winning numbers are drawn, they win a prize.

But Keno is different from other lottery games. While drawings for Powerball or MegaMillions happen once a day, drawings for Keno usually take place every few minutes.

Its fast pace makes Keno a popular casino-style 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 efforts that would have brought Keno to Arkansas in 2014 was that they did not want the state creating miniature casinos in bars, convenience stores, and gas stations as part of the Lottery.

That’s something that could happen if Arkansas authorizes Keno or similar games under the state-run lottery.

AR Lottery Discontinues 15 Scratch-Off Tickets With Millions of Dollars in Prizes Still Outstanding

The Arkansas Lottery has a habit of relying heavily on scratch-off tickets and routinely rolls out new lottery games — some of which cost as much as $10 or $20 per ticket.

However, something that doesn’t get talked about very much is the fact that the Arkansas Lottery also routinely discontinues scratch-off tickets — some of which may still have a million dollars or more in outstanding prize money.

For example, the Arkansas Lottery quit selling its Big Multiplier scratch-off tickets on February 5 of this year. Players have until May 5 to redeem winning tickets purchased on or before February 5.

The Arkansas Lottery decided to quit selling Big Multiplier tickets despite the fact that there are more than $1.8 million worth of prizes remaining from this line of scratch-off tickets — including one jackpot ticket worth $250,000.

These winning tickets either were never sold or — if they were sold — have not been claimed yet.

In other words, by discontinuing the Big Multiplier game before all the winning scratch-off tickets were sold or redeemed, the Arkansas Lottery could avoid paying out as much as $1.8 million in prizes.

The Arkansas Lottery likewise decided to discontinue its Cash Time scratch-off ticket in February despite the fact that nearly 30% of its winning tickets were not sold or have not been redeemed yet.

All told, Family Council has identified more than a dozen lines of instant tickets that the Arkansas Lottery is in the process of discontinuing, with approximately $8.6 million in prize money unpaid from these lottery games.

As of last week, they are:

Lottery Game Total Prize Money Prize Money Remaining Percent Unawarded
Win 10X $2,655,804 $291,182 11.0%
Hit 100 $1,371,832 $299,051 21.8%
20X Payout $2,192,510 $630,196 28.7%
Cash Time $1,034,531 $298,666 28.9%
10X Payout $1,511,540 $410,931 27.2%
500 Loaded $8,865,180 $333,275 3.8%
5000 Taxes Paid $1,045,550 $209,281 20.0%
Big Multiplier $11,135,545 $1,841,335 16.5%
50K Blowout $22,698,830 $1,596,490 7.0%
Cash Multiplier $6,426,935 $763,520 11.9%
Fast Cash HD $6,194,695 $382,250 6.2%
10X Bonus Crossword $4,923,492 $219,994 4.5%
$50 or $100 $8,259,950 $174,900 2.1%
100,000 Taxes Paid $6,063,064 $557,565 9.2%
200,000 Taxes Paid $9,227,220 $601,785 6.5%

In other states, lotteries have drawn flak for discontinuing scratch-off games before selling all or most of the winning tickets.

Some have questioned whether those lotteries simply did not want to pay money for big prizes.

The Arkansas Lottery already spends more money on prizes than most lotteries.

However, many people may be surprised to learn that a state-run lottery can avoid paying prizes to players by simply cancelling lottery games before all the winning tickets are sold.

Arkansas Lottery Has Spent $111,000+ on Mileage Reimbursements Since July

According to the state transparency website, the Arkansas Lottery has spent $111,995.74 reimbursing employees for mileage expenses since July 1, 2019.

Since 2018, the Arkansas Lottery has spent more than $200,000 on mileage each fiscal year.

For perspective, last year the Arkansas Department of Education spent about $62,000 on fuel and on mileage reimbursements for its employees — about one-third what the Lottery Office spent.

State employees — like those who work for the Arkansas Lottery — can be reimbursed for the mileage they drive in their personal vehicles on work-related trips.

For example, if a state employee drives his or her personal vehicle on a business trip from Little Rock to Fayetteville, the employee is eligible for reimbursement.

According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration’s website, the current reimbursement rate for mileage is 42 cents per mile.

That means an employee at the Arkansas Lottery would receive 42 cents for every mile he or she drives in a personal vehicle on a work-related road trip.

If that’s accurate, then $111,000 in mileage reimbursements would be enough money to cover 264,000 miles of travel.

The Department of Finance and Administration has a fleet of state vehicles. Why doesn’t the Office of the Arkansas Lottery use them for official travel?

The cost of fuel for a state vehicle would be about half the cost of reimbursing a state employee for driving his or her own car.

Or for that matter, why doesn’t the Arkansas Lottery purchase a couple of vehicles that employees can use for business trips? It would be cheaper in the long run than paying people to drive their personal vehicles on state business.

Click here to see a breakdown of Arkansas Lottery mileage reimbursements for FY 2020.

Photo Credit: Airtuna08 at English Wikipedia [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]