Despite Uptick, Arkansas Lottery Still Coming Up Short

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports an uptick in ticket sales at the Arkansas Lottery. According to the article, sales for September, 2015, were the highest of any September since 2011.

Here’s the bad news: Despite this uptick in sales, the Arkansas Lottery only allocated 18.3%–$6.6 million–of its gross revenue for scholarships last month.

While we’re still only one quarter of the way into Fiscal Year 2016, these numbers put the Arkansas Lottery on track to pay out roughly $71 – $75 million in scholarships this fiscal year–$80 million on the high side.

To put these numbers into perspective, $75 million is a full $25 million less than lottery proponents insisted the Lottery would provide for scholarships six years ago, and 18.3% is barely better than half of the percentage Louisiana’s lottery allocates.

What’s more, according to Lottery officials, the Lottery’s uptick in sales during September was bolstered in part by a new $20 scratch-off ticket and a high PowerBall jackpot.

This is more of the same failed strategy. The Lottery’s strategy since Day One has been to prop up ticket sales artificially by rolling out new games. People are always excited to try the new lottery games, but as soon as the novelty wears off, ticket sales decline again. (more…)

Legislators Abolish Lottery Commission, Bring Lottery Under DF&A

Yesterday, lawmakers passed a bill abolishing the Arkansas Lottery Commission and making the Lottery part of the Department of Finance and Administration.

When the Arkansas Legislature established the Arkansas Lottery Commission in 2009, they made it an independent state agency with its own commissioners and very little outside accountability.

As a result, Arkansas has rolled out more gambling more quickly than any other state lottery we know; we have seen Lottery officials paid exorbitant salaries while college scholarships funded by the Lottery declined.

Senate Bill 7 brings more accountability to the Lottery by disbanding the Lottery Commission and making the Arkansas Lottery answerable to the Department of Finance and Administration as well as the Governor’s Office.

The bill passed unanimously in the Arkansas Senate two weeks ago, and it passed overwhelmingly in the Arkansas House yesterday.

It now goes to Governor Hutchinson, who has said he will sign it.

Lawmakers Looking to Abolish Lottery Commission

Senator Jimmy Hickey has filed a bill that would abolish the Arkansas Lottery Commission and put the Arkansas Lottery and its director under the authority of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the governor.

The Arkansas Lottery Commission currently operates as an independent state commission with relatively little oversight. Its nine commissioners were appointed by the governor and members of the Arkansas Legislature. Senator Hickey’s proposal would bring the state lottery under the purview of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and it would cause the Arkansas Lottery Director to serve at the pleasure of the governor–just as virtually every other state agency director does.

This bill, presumably, is intended to bring more accountability and stability to the Arkansas Lottery. The Arkansas Lottery Commission set an unusual precedent last year when it voted to approve lottery “monitor games” despite objections from Arkansas’ lawmakers. As some legislators said last spring, the Arkansas Legislature created the Lottery Commission, and the Arkansas Legislature can change it. It seems that may be exactly what some lawmakers intend to do.

We will keep an eye on this bill as it develops at the Arkansas Legislature in the coming days. You can read Senator Hickey’s entire proposal here.