UPDATE State lottery raised $286 million for scholarships in first three years


LITTLE ROCK — As of its three-year anniversary on Sept. 28, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery had sold $1.4 billion worth of tickets and funded $286 million worth of college scholarships, Lottery Director Bishop Woosley told the state Lottery Commission on Monday.

The lottery also paid out nearly $900 million in prizes and just over $80 million in commissions and bonuses to retailers in its first three years, Woosley said.

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who led the drive to create the lottery, predicted during that effort that the lottery would generate $100 million a year for scholarships. Woosley told the commission Monday the lottery is on track to raise $95 million for scholarships in the current fiscal year.

He said last month’s ticket sales were below projections by nearly $6 million and below September 2011 sales by more than $9 million. This continues a trend that also saw sales down in July and August, he said.

But Woosley said the slump may be ending. Sales for the first week of October were the lottery’s highest for any week since May, he said.

“I looked back over the course of the three years that we’ve been up and operating, and I think we’ve had at least three instances of where we had sales that dropped down for three or four months in a row,” Woosley said. “Obviously any time you see something like that a light bulb pops above your head and you’re alarmed a little bit, but this is not something that hasn’t happened before, and we saw ultimately increases in sales.”

Woosley also said net proceeds for September appeared on income statements to be below projections and below September 2011 proceeds, but that is because unclaimed prize money is now kept separate from other revenue. If unclaimed prize money is figured in, net proceeds were up last month, thanks mainly to reductions in operating costs, he said.

“Although sales are down, our proceeds are up, which is ultimately what we’re going to be judged on,” Woosley said.

The commission also approved an amendment to its contract with one of its vendors, Intralot, that will allow the lottery to place 600 TV screens in stores that sell lottery tickets, to advertise the lottery. The screens will not cost the lottery anything extra because it is taking them in place of 400 video terminals that were included in its contract with Intralot but which lottery officials chose not to use.

Woosley warned the commission that the lottery could face new competition next year. He said he read a report Sunday about a push to create a state lottery in Mississippi.

“I don’t have any hair, but if I did it would have stood up a little bit,” Woosley said.