Lottery Commission to revisit monitor games


LITTLE ROCK —With proceeds down from last year, the state Lottery Commission will consider adding monitor games to boost revenue — option that Gov. Mike Beebe and others have spoken against in the past.

Commissioner Dianne Lamberth of Batesville asked the commission Monday to take another look at monitor games, which so far have not been offered in Arkansas. Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville, co-chairman of the legislative oversight committee on the lottery, had requested earlier that the commission take up the issue.

Lamberth requested a review of how other state lottery games have incorporated keno and other monitor games and how the games have fared.

Bruce Engstrom of North Little Rock, attending Monday’s meeting via phone, asked if the 2009 state law establishing the lottery permits monitor games. Chairman George Hammons of Pine Bluff said it does.

Steve Faris of Hot Springs, a former legislator, said he would like to know how the entire legislative oversight committee feels about monitor games, not just Perry.

Ben Pickard of Searcy agreed and noted that “when this issue was discussed initially, there was quite a bit of resistance from the Legislature.”

As to whether the lottery law permits monitor games, Pickard said,”Personally I think that’s a little foggy, and I’m not sure whether this is what the people voted on when we started.”

Voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow a state lottery to fund college scholarships in November 2008. Beebe said in June 2009 that he questioned whether voters intended to approve monitor games such as keno when they approved the lottery.

Several legislators also have expressed reservations about monitor games, as has the Christian conservative Family Council, which has likened them to casino games.

According to Lottery Director Bishop Woosley, a typical monitor game would be played by selecting numbers from a screen, with winning numbers determined by a drawing. Under Arkansas law, a monitor game could not be interactive, so even if a game were called “poker” or “Texas hold ‘em,” players would not actually play poker against a machine.

“It will be another source of revenue,” Woosley told reporters after Monday’s meeting. “It’s just up to the commission whether or not it’s a (type) of game that they want to play.”

The Lottery Commission’s contract with vendor Intralot requires the company to provide 400 monitors, but in June 2012 the commission voted to swap out the monitors for televisions that could be placed in retail stores to advertise the lottery. Woosley said Monday it may be possible to obtain monitors from Intralot at no extra cost, “but it’s not something I’ve discussed with them.”

Woosley told the commission Monday that as of May 31 the lottery’s net proceeds for the current fiscal year totaled $81.3 million. He said that total likely would reach $90 million by the end of the fiscal year on Sunday, barring a large prize payout.

“There may be a $2 million prize winner sitting down in the claims center right now, so you just have to hold your breath,” he said.

The lottery took in $97 million for scholarships in the 2012-13 fiscal year. The Legislature this year adopted a tiered system of scholarship amounts, in which the amounts increase each year that a student attends a four-year school, as a way to lower expenses in response to high demand for scholarships and declining lottery revenue.

The commission also met in executive session Monday to review the job performances of Woosley and the lottery’s internal auditor, Matt Brown. Hammons said later that both received favorable reviews and that no decision had been made as to whether they would receive cost-of-living increases in the coming fiscal year.