In 2008, then-Lt. Governor Bill Halter promised Arkansans the Arkansas Lottery would “generate” at least $100 million in college scholarships every year.
A year later, then-Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue estimated it would be more like $116 million.
Both men completely dismissed one estimate at the time, however: The Department of Finance and Administration’s.
DFA estimated a state-run lottery could only provide about $55 million a year for scholarships. I remember when that estimate was published, Lt. Gov. Halter told reporters something to the effect of, “Well, at least everyone agrees it’s going to raise tens of millions of dollars.”
When pressed about the Lottery’s lagging scholarships last week, however, lottery officials were quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as embracing that DFA estimate–even going so far as to say the lottery has “exceeded” the Department of Finance’s expectations.
What they are trying to avoid is the fact that the Lottery has consistently provided less than $100 million a year for scholarships. In fact, not once has the Arkansas Lottery met that initial projection. The Lottery has consistently failed to meet its proponents’ goals, but it has outperformed the low-ball estimate so readily dismissed when the Arkansas Lottery was pitched to the voters.
I guess the lesson here is when your own numbers don’t work, use someone else’s.