Arkansans Are Losing $100+ Million Every Year Playing the Lottery

Family Council routinely writes about how the Arkansas Lottery budgets a pathetic amount of money for college scholarships and about how it preys on the poor and desperate with its heavy emphasis on scratch-off tickets — some of which cost as much as $20 a piece.

However, something that gets relatively little attention is the large amount of money that the Arkansas Lottery pulls out of the economy every year.

In Fiscal Year 2019 the Arkansas Lottery sold over half-a-billion dollars worth of lottery tickets — nearly $515.5 million.

The Arkansas Lottery paid out nearly $349.9 million in prizes.

All told, Arkansans lost over $165.6 million playing the lottery last year.

Right now the state is halfway through Fiscal Year 2020, and Arkansans have lost more than $74.1 million playing the lottery.

Lottery tickets aren’t the only form of gambling that Arkansans are losing money on.

Last year the Department of Finance and Administration found that Arkansans reported a total of over $244 million in gambling losses in 2017.

Together, the state lottery and casino gambling are draining millions upon millions of dollars out of the state economy every year.

Below is a table breaking down the amount of money people spent — and lost — on lottery tickets the past few years.

FY2020 (Partial) FY2019 FY2018 FY2017 FY2016
Total Lottery Ticket Sales $239,111,994.50 $515,493,507.00 $499,707,976.00 $449,141,028.00 $455,599,402.00
Total Lottery Prizes 164,958,958.21 349,876,222.00 341,895,420.00 306,429,388.00 308,947,315.00
Money Lost Playing the Lottery $74,153,036.29 $165,617,285.00 $157,812,556.00 $142,711,640.00 $146,652,087.00

Slot Machine Group Spent $45,647 On Petition Drive in December

According to reports filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, in December the group Arcade Arkansas spent $45,647 on its effort to bring more casino-style games to the state.

Virtually all of this money went toward the group’s petition drive.

Arcade Arkansas is collecting petition signatures for a ballot measure that would legalize gambling machines as part of the Arkansas Lottery.

As we said last summer, this amendment will bring casino-type gambling machines into convenience stores and eating places all over Arkansas. 

It will turn the corner convenience store into a casino and create hangouts where people can gamble 24 hours a day.

The amendment allows up to 15,000 gambling machines statewide with little or no oversight to prevent fraud.

All told, the group has spent more than $280,000 on its pro-gambling effort since last August.

Lottery’s Explanation of December Scholarship Funding Doesn’t Make Sense

Recently we wrote about how the Arkansas Lottery paid very little to scholarships in December despite taking in more than $46 million.

The Arkansas Lottery notoriously budgets very little of its revenue for college scholarships, but December was particularly dismal, with students receiving only 13.8 cents out of every dollar the lottery made.

This week KNWA asked lottery officials why so little money went to scholarships last month.

KNWA writes,

They [Arkansas Lottery officials] say the lottery actually makes more money from its draw games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, but also local draws like the Natural State Jackpot and the Cash 3.

Officials say the lottery makes about 43 cents on the dollar for those, but the instant ticket games that had record sales in December don’t make as much. It varies depending on which ticket amounts are being sold. That then affects the profits, and, in turn the amount going to scholarships.

In other words, lottery officials blame the poor scholarship funding on the fact that the Lottery sold a lot of instant (i.e. scratch-off) tickets in December as opposed to Powerball tickets.

If it’s true that scratch-off tickets aren’t as profitable for the Arkansas Lottery, then why does the Lottery work so hard to promote them?

Why would they keep rolling out scratch-off tickets like the $20 ticket we wrote about in December?

If these instant tickets are actually hurting the Arkansas Lottery’s bottom line, then why does the state lottery offer more than 50 different scratch-off tickets at stores and gas stations all over Arkansas?

It simply doesn’t make sense.