State legislators heard reports from lottery officials Tuesday detailing below forecast sales, possible changes, and the effect on scholarships. Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said the commission is $5.8 million below forecast.
“I think it probably has a little bit to do with the age of the lottery. After a certain period of start-up excitement you often see a fall in sales. We had the theft last year, which you know, that’s something that might bring into question whether or not our players believe that our games are secure and things of that nature and we’ve had some lawsuits filed against us. I can’t not believe that some of that didn’t have an impact on our sales along with just the age of the lottery and the fact that the excitement dies down,” said Woosley.
The director argued declines for new lotteries are typical nationwide and numbers now might more accurately reflect Arkansas’s sales capacity. He advocated for future changes like new games with interactive video monitors and allowing the use of debit cards to purchase lottery games. In a non-binding vote, legislators expressed opposition to developing the monitor games.
While revenue is down the state is still funding scholarships in part by utilizing a portion of a reserve fund. Shane Broadway, the Director of Arkansas Department of Higher Education, said some scholarship changes are affecting projections but cautioned against trying to make sudden corrections.
“You can just now begin to see everybody understands these are the eligibility requirements, I understand now what I’ve got to have. I’m a freshman entering by the time I graduate I’ve got to have a 2.5 [GPA] or a 19 [ACT] if I take Smart Core. It’s starting to sink in. When you go and change that, that’s your right as a legislature but just know in terms of our process in terms of having to re-educate the public it will take some time,” said Broadway.
The new requirement for high school students to follow the Smart Core curriculum would have made 2,500 students last year ineligible for the lottery scholarship. The next fall semester will be the first class with the requirement. Broadway says nearly 4,000 of the 16,000 scholarship applicants still need verification the student took the Smart Core curriculum.
He expects verification and the number of students not qualified to be known by June 1st. Broadway suggested the numbers may initially show a slight a drop off in those eligible, meaning less expenditures for the Lottery Commission, but that should change as new requirements continue to be better known.