Arkansas Lottery Budgets 17% of Its Revenue for Education

The Arkansas Lottery is continuing to set aside very little money for college scholarships, according to a report released this week.

In July the state-run Lottery took in nearly $49.8 million, but paid only $8.6 million to college scholarships — about 17 cents out of every dollar the Lottery made.

July marks the beginning of the Arkansas Lottery’s new fiscal year.

To date, the Arkansas Lottery has maintained a pattern of budgeting an extraordinary amount of money for prizes and other expenses while setting aside relatively little money for students.

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

State Lottery Rolls Out Even More Scratch-Off Tickets

Last week the Arkansas Lottery unveiled a new lineup of scratch-off tickets that sell for anywhere from $1 to $20 each.

The tickets are:

  • X10 Multiplier (Cost: $1)
  • X20 Multiplier (Cost: $2)
  • X50 Multiplier (Cost: $5)
  • Cool Cash (Cost: $10)
  • $50,000 Payout (Cost: $20)

These scratch-off tickets offer notoriously bad odds.

Players who fork over $20 for a $50,000 Payout ticket stand to lose their money two-thirds of the time.

The odds of winning the $50,000 top prize are a staggering 1 in 20,000.

And the odds of winning even $1 from the X10 Multiplier ticket are not good — roughly a 1 in 5 chance.

As we have written many times, 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 — like the Lottery’s new $10 and $20 tickets — are particularly controversial, because they prey on the poor and desperate by offering long odds on big prizes.

The Arkansas Lottery seems to be in a never-ending cycle of consistently rolling out new lottery games to prop up ticket sales and entice people to gamble.

Despite all of this, the Arkansas Lottery gives Arkansas’ college students only a fraction of the money that it makes.

Most of the Lottery’s revenue pays for prizes that few lottery players ever win.

Arkansas Lottery Again Talks About Keno, Letting People Gamble Online

In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Larry Walther indicated that the state-run lottery might like to offer Keno and Internet gambling in Arkansas.

Lottery officials have floated the idea of offering Keno and electronic gambling in the past in order to bolster lottery sales and entice more people to play the lottery.

But lottery ticket sales surged in Arkansas during the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, and the Lottery just finished its best best fiscal year ever, in terms of revenue.

Clearly the Arkansas Lottery is doing just fine without Keno or online gambling.

Lottery officials lobbied unsuccessfully for Keno in 2013 and 2014, but lawmakers soundly rejected that proposal.

Keno is different from games like Powerball or MegaMillions. Drawings usually take place every few minutes rather than once a day, and the odds of winning a jackpot prize tend to be worse than other lottery games.

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 Lottery creating miniature casinos in bars, convenience stores, and gas stations all over Arkansas.

If the Arkansas Lottery authorizes Keno — and especially if lottery officials make it possible for people to gamble online — that’s going to increase problem gambling and gambling addiction in Arkansas.