June 4, 2013 – Two reports yesterday on ArkansasBusiness.com pointed to a decline in Lottery sales that has taken its toll on the Lottery’s ability to support education in the state.
Luke Jones, assistant editor at Arkansas Business, reported that Arkansas Lottery officials reduced their expected contributions to state education by $9 million after poor sales this year continued in April.
Though that $9 million is only a fraction of the $89.5 million the Lottery still expects to return, the decrease has had significant impact on higher education support.
The state’s scholarship program offers half as much money – $2,500 – to qualified incoming college freshman now than it did two years ago.
Lawmakers in Arkansas saw the decrease in support for freshman and implementation of a new “stacked” scholarship system as a better alternative than cutting the scholarships altogether.
“[Legislators] didn’t have much choice, they would have to reduce award amounts…to maintain the viability of this scholarship program in the long term,” said Shane Broadway, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
So what happened to Lottery sales to affect these changes?
The Lottery’s director, Bishop Woosley, told Jones that the Lottery was “overall, doing pretty well.”
But he also said that “early on in the fiscal year…we kind of had a perfect storm.”
Woosley explained that while other state lotteries implemented more expensive games in steps over about three years, Arkansas’ Lottery, which began selling tickets in 2009, released their higher-priced games more quickly.
He told Arkansas Business that lotteries see a “honeymoon arc” in sales after their introduction, and that Arkansas is seeing the end of that arc.
While a rewards program for Arkansas Lottery players, the Affinity Club, helped sustain sales for a while, the Lottery has taken to releasing new games to stimulate revenues.
The Natural State Jackpot, which the Lottery added in August 2012, was “a boost” for the Lottery, Woosley said.
“The folks in the state seemed to really like that game…[and it] helps us where we’re falling short on other issues and areas,” he told Arkansas Business.
He added that “there are some positive signs that we’re getting back to where it was.”
Figures suggest that May 2013 sales will surpass revenue generated in May 2012.
Along with the Natural State Jackpot, the Arkansas Lottery also introduced a new instant game, and plans to release a new raffle game in September.