Lottery Director Floats Keno, Electronic Gambling at Legislative Meeting

On Friday the Arkansas Lottery’s director floated the idea of offering Keno and some form of electronic gambling at a legislative oversight committee meeting, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The director reportedly told lawmakers,

“[T]he future requires a lot of touchless and remote purchasing, so we have considered an iLottery situation, and again, that is not imminent. . . . If we are in a situation where this [pandemic] continues and people are not wanting to go to stores and people are not wanting to [go to convenience stores]. That’s where we sell our tickets.

It’s worth mentioning lottery ticket sales surged in Arkansas during the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, and May was the Arkansas Lottery’s best month ever.

Clearly the Arkansas Lottery is doing just fine without Keno or electronic gambling — despite the coronavirus.

Lottery officials lobbied for Keno in 2013 and 2014 as part of an unsuccessful push to bring casino-style gambling to Arkansas under the state lottery.

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 games like Powerball or MegaMillions in that drawings usually take place every few minutes rather than once a day.

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 creating miniature casinos in bars, convenience stores, and gas stations as part of the Lottery.

That’s something that could still happen if Arkansas authorizes Keno or other forms of electronic gambling under the state-run lottery.

Arkansas Lottery Spends Little on Scholarship Despite Best Month Ever

The Arkansas Lottery spent very little on college scholarships in May, despite having what appears to be the Lottery’s best single month ever.

According to its latest report, the Arkansas Lottery made a staggering $61.1 million last month.

For comparison, the Lottery averaged about $41 – $42 million in revenue per month prior to May.

Despite making so much money, the Lottery paid only $8.6 million to college scholarships — about 14% of the Lottery’s revenue.

Seventy percent of Arkansas Lottery revenue went to prizes. That’s nearly $43 million!

For perspective the typical state lottery pays about 30% of its revenue to education and budgets about 60% of its revenue for prizes.

Because the Arkansas Lottery budgets so much money for prizes and so little for education, the Lottery has failed to live up to its promise to provide $100 million per year in funding for college scholarships.

As we have written before, it’s telling that lottery ticket sales in Arkansas surged amid the COVID-19 pandemic just as people received economic stimulus checks from the government.

In other words, there’s a very good possibility Arkansans spent their unemployment checks and federal stimulus money on lottery tickets.

The Arkansas Lottery also has continued to rely heavily on scratch-off tickets despite the fact that scratch-off tickets are closely linked with problem gambling and gambling addiction.

Below is a breakdown of Arkansas Lottery ticket sales and scholarship funding so far this fiscal year.

MonthGross Lottery RevenuePaid to Scholarships% Gross Revenue
January, 202040,802,067.758,239,083.7720.2%

Photo Credit: Powerball and Mega Millions Lottery Billboard in Missouri by Tony Webster, on Flickr.

Arkansas Lottery Rolls Out Even More Scratch-Off Tickets

This week the Arkansas Lottery rolled out four new scratch-off tickets — including one ticket that sells for $10.

Scratch-off tickets are controversial, because they are tied to problem gambling and gambling addiction.

A 2015 study in Canada described them as “paper slot machines.” 

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions found a link between how often a person played scratch-off tickets and the severity of a person’s gambling problem.

Expensive scratch-off tickets are particularly controversial, because they prey on the poor and desperate by offering long odds on big jackpots.

Despite all of this, the Arkansas Lottery still relies very heavily on scratch-off tickets.

The vast majority of the money the Arkansas Lottery makes from scratch-off tickets pays for prizes for lottery players. Very little goes to Arkansas’ students.

As long as the Arkansas Lottery continues to operate this way, it will keep preying on the poor and desperate, and the Lottery’s scholarship funding will remain low.