August 19, 2010 | Posted in Arkansas Lottery | By

Yesterday, I listened as lottery official Julie Baldridge told Dave Elswick on KARN that lottery proponents want to install the proposed lottery vending machines in places like Walgreens, Fred’s Dollar Store, and Dollar General across Arkansas.

This confirms what we’ve suspected all along: That the vending machines will not be going into gas stations and convenience stores that currently sell lottery tickets.

I’ve had many people tell me they want to see the machines rolled out for no other reason than the fact that they believe it will reduce the amount of time they have to spend waiting in line to pay for their gasoline. Well, it’s just not going to happen.

Baldridge also indicated that the machines were necessary to fund college scholarships, and that this was proven by the fact that roughly half the students who applied for lottery scholarships were denied.

Well, here’s something to consider: The Arkansas Lottery pays only 22% of its revenue to scholarships—that’s one of the lowest in the nation. The other 78% of their money goes back into prizes, advertising, administrative costs, and their salaries.  If the Lottery Commission is so concerned with providing scholarships, why don’t they just increase the amount of money they pour into the scholarship fund?

Baldridge was quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on August 17 as saying the reason they couldn’t increase the percentage was because the lottery was “expense heavy” when it started—basically that purchasing new equipment and covering their overhead was preventing them from giving more money to Arkansas’ students—but that she hoped they would be able to increase the percentage from 22% to 24% soon (which would do little to raise Arkansas from the bottom of the nation).

Well, yesterday, Baldridge told Elswick that these new vending machines cost $50,000 each! Talk about being expense heavy!

The Arkansas Lottery Commission is tipping its hand, here—they’re showing their true colors.

On the one hand, they’ve talked up these machines like they’re going to save Arkansas’ lottery and send more kids to college. But on the other hand, it’s becoming clear that nothing is going to change if we get these machines, and that the same arguments that have been used to keep Arkansas at the bottom when it comes to lottery proceeds devoted to scholarships will likely continue.

Baldridge told Elswick that the machines are so sophisticated that she was tempted to take one home and have it clean her house.  Well, I’m sorry, folks, but I’m afraid the only thing these machines will be able to clean out is your bank account.

Update: After hearing this story, a friend of mine contacted the Walgreens District Manager’s office in Little Rock.  According to the person he spoke with, they have had no contact with Arkansas Lottery officials, and know nothing of the Lottery Commission’s plan to install vending machines in their stores. It seems lottery officials may be counting their chickens before they’ve hatched.

Jerry is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.

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