Oc­to­ber take at lot­tery hits a high mark

Month’s rev­enue at $39.8M but schol­ar­ships’ funds lag

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - MICHAEL R. WICK­LINE

A surge from scratch-off tick­ets in Oc­to­ber helped the Arkansas Schol­ar­ship Lot­tery’s rev­enue reach $39.8 mil­lion — the high­est mark for the month since the lot­tery’s first year of op­er­a­tions in 2009.

The lot­tery raised $5.6 mil­lion for col­lege schol­ar­ships last month and that fell short of each of its pre­vi­ous Oc­to­bers, ex­cept for $5.1 mil­lion in Oc­to­ber of last year, ac­cord­ing to the monthly lot­tery re­port to Gov. Asa Hutchin­son and the Leg­is­la­ture’s lot­tery over­sight sub­com­mit­tee.

Asked why last month’s net pro­ceeds lagged most of the pre­vi­ous Oc­to­bers, Woosley said Tues­day that in the past few years, the lot­tery hasn’t been adding un­claimed prizes into its monthly re­ports for net pro­ceeds un­til the end of the fis­cal year, “so if you in­clude un­claimed [prizes] with this month’s to­tal it comes to about $6.2 mil­lion.

“That would be an ap­ples-to-ap­ples com­par­i­son,” he said Tues­day.

Rev­enue in Oc­to­ber in­creased by $5.8 mil­lion over the $34 mil­lion col­lected in the same month in 2016, the lot­tery re­ported.

“We had an ex­cel­lent month of in­stant ticket sales and a good sales month with our draw games with par­tic­u­lar suc­cess for Nat­u­ral State Jack­pot sales,” Woosley said in his writ­ten state­ment. In­stant tick­ets also are called scratch-off tick­ets.

The largest amount of rev­enue that the lot­tery has col­lected in the month of Oc­to­ber is the $46.3 mil­lion recorded in 2009 — the first full month that the lot­tery sold tick­ets. The lot­tery started sell­ing scratch-offs on Sept. 28, 2009, and started sell­ing Power­ball tick­ets on Oct. 31, 2009.

The lot­tery has helped fi­nance more than 30,000 Arkansas Aca­demic Chal­lenge Schol­ar­ships dur­ing each of the past seven fis­cal years. The Leg­is­la­ture has cut the size of fu­ture schol­ar­ships three times dur­ing this pe­riod be­cause of lag­ging pro­jec­tions for net pro­ceeds and more stu­dents than pro­jected be­ing awarded the schol­ar­ship.

Rev­enue peaked at $473.6 mil­lion and net pro­ceeds at $97.5 mil­lion in fis­cal 2012 be­fore drop­ping for three con­sec­u­tive fis­cal years. Since then, net pro­ceeds

have re­bounded in the past two fis­cal years to $85.2 mil­lion. Fis­cal years start July 1 and end June 30.

In Oc­to­ber, scratch-off rev­enue in­creased by about $5.5 mil­lion over rev­enue a year ago to $34 mil­lion, while draw-game rev­enue inched up by about $220,000 over a year ago to $5.6 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the lot­tery re­port.

The draw games are Power­ball, Mega Mil­lions, Cash 3, Cash 4, the Nat­u­ral State Jack­pot, Fast Play and Lucky for Life. Rev­enue also in­cludes fees paid by re­tail­ers.

“We have been see­ing a good trend with in­stant tick­ets for many months and this was no dif­fer­ent,” Woosley said. A new over­size scratchoff ticket called the Big Money Mul­ti­plier “thus far has been the high­est sell­ing $10 game we have ever had for the 6-week pe­riod it has been avail­able,” he said in his writ­ten state­ment.

The $5.6 mil­lion raised for col­lege schol­ar­ships last month is up by about $500,000 over the same month a year ago. The largest amount raised for schol­ar­ships in the month of Oc­to­ber is $9.8 mil­lion in 2010.

Dur­ing the first four months of fis­cal 2018, rev­enue has to­taled $162.4 mil­lion — up by $21.9 mil­lion over the same pe­riod in fis­cal 2017.

The num­ber of lot­tery re­tail­ers was 1,935 at the end of Oc­to­ber — up by 16 from 1,919 a year ago.

Ef­fec­tive Aug. 1, a new law al­lowed lot­tery re­tail­ers the op­tion of ac­cept­ing debit cards for ticket pur­chases. Be­fore the law be­came ef­fec­tive, the re­tail­ers had been lim­ited to ac­cept­ing cash for pur­chases.

“Our sys­tem can­not track debit pur­chases so there is no way of ob­tain­ing the in­for­ma­tion,” Woosley said when asked how much of an im­pact the debit-card pur­chases are hav­ing on over­all

sales.

But, he added, “I think the law al­low­ing the pur­chase of lot­tery tick­ets us­ing debit cards has def­i­nitely had a pos­i­tive im­pact on sales.”

Woosley said lot­tery of­fi­cials

haven’t counted how many of the re­tail­ers ac­cept debit cards yet, and “it is likely we will con­duct a sur­vey of which re­tail­ers are ac­cept­ing debit cards be­fore the end of the fis­cal year.”

Dur­ing the first four months of fis­cal 2018, net pro­ceeds to­taled $27.9 mil­lion — com­pared with $25.1 mil­lion in the same pe­riod in fis­cal 2017.

Un­claimed prizes last month were $563,676 and will in­crease the un­claimed prize re­serve fund to $3.2 mil­lion as of Oct. 31. At the end of the fis­cal year, the bal­ance of the re­serve fund, mi­nus $1 mil­lion, goes to col­lege schol­ar­ships un­der state law.

Woosley has pro­jected rev­enue of $459 mil­lion and net pro­ceeds for schol­ar­ships at $83.6 mil­lion in fis­cal 2018.

“As of now, we are about $4.8 mil­lion above bud­get for pro­ceeds for the year,” said Woosley, who has been lot­tery di­rec­tor since Fe­bru­ary 2012. “I am not sure if we have ever been in a bet­ter po­si­tion at this point dur­ing a fis­cal year.”

Last month, the state Depart­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion re­ported that it ex­pects to award Arkansas Aca­demic Chal­lenge Schol­ar­ships to more than 36,000 stu­dents this

fis­cal year and that’s more than have been awarded in each of the pre­vi­ous seven fis­cal years in which the lot­tery has helped pay for the schol­ar­ships. The depart­ment has pro­jected that it will award schol­ar­ships worth $97.3 mil­lion to 36,014 stu­dents in fis­cal 2018.

Be­yond the lot­tery, state gen­eral rev­enue of $20 mil­lion a year and the lot­tery re­serve fund of $20 mil­lion help pay for the schol­ar­ships. The re­serve fund helps cover the depart­ment’s tem­po­rary cash short­falls to pay for schol­ar­ships be­fore the fund is re­plen­ished with money raised by the lot­tery.

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