Arkansas Lottery

Sen. Jimmy Hickey
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

If the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery ends up earning more than the current $100 million it takes to run the program annually, how will that money be spent? That’s a key concern for state Sen. Jimmy Hickey, a Republican from Texarkana.

On Thursday he gave an overview of proposed legislation to the House Education Committee that he says would provide a structure for how additional revenue is spent.

Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Director Bishop Woosley
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Revenue from the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery was up $3.8 million in August compared to the same month last year, totaling $35 million.

This month lottery officials are celebrating the 7th anniversary of its creation, which was authorized by Arkansas voters in 2008. Lottery Director Bishop Woosley spoke with KUAR about how the lottery is doing.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN: First, what's your reaction to this latest revenue report?

A new report says the Arkansas lottery enjoyed record-breaking sales over the past year that funded an increase in college scholarships in the state. 

The report released Monday to the Legislature's Lottery Oversight Committee says total ticket sales during the fiscal year that ended June 30 were $455.6 million, up 11.5 percent over fiscal 2015. Instant ticket sales were up $25 million over the prior year, and draw games were up more than $22 million.

Arkansas Scholarship Lottery
Arkansas Scholarship Lottery / myarkansaslottery.com

Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Director Bishop Woosley says he expects the state’s lottery to raise about $84 million to $85 million for college scholarships in the fiscal year ending June 30, a $12 million or $13 million increase over the previous fiscal year, in which the lottery raised $72.4 million for college scholarships.

This month, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery reported revenue of $421.3 million and net proceeds of $74.1 million for college scholarships during the first 11 months of fiscal 2016. Those figures exceeded the totals for all of fiscal 2015.

Bishop Woosley Arkansas Lottery
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Wednesday is the deadline to apply for college scholarships funded by the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. About 30,000 are expected to be awarded in the coming months to traditional and non-tradition students.

Director Bishop Woosley says an improvement in sales this year means they can maintain the number of scholarships being offered.

The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery has sold more than $19 million in Powerball tickets as of Tuesday during this latest run that began Nov. 5, and about half of that money will go to scholarships.

Bishop Woosley Arkansas Lottery
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The director of Arkansas' lottery says cutbacks from an overhaul of the games will increase the amount of money available for college scholarships next year, but said its revenue is behind expectations so far this year.

Lottery Director Bishop Woosley told a legislative panel on Thursday he expects net proceeds for the games to increase by $1.4 million in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The gain comes primarily from cuts to the lottery program, including the closing of three claims centers and positions that were eliminated.

Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to cutting the amount of lottery-funded scholarships freshmen would receive and basing its eligibility solely on standardized testing starting in 2016.

The Senate on Monday voted 27-2 to lower the scholarship amount incoming freshmen receive from $2,000 to $1,000 and increase the amount students receive in the second year from $3,000 to $4,000. The amounts received in later years - $4,000 for juniors and $5,000 for seniors - would remain the same.

Arkansas' lottery-funded scholarships would be awarded based on the number of credit hours earned by college students under a proposal endorsed by the House.

The bill advanced to the Senate on Thursday in a 77-0 vote. Republican Rep. Dwight Tosh of Jonesboro says the change would begin in 2016 and require the Department of Higher Education to award scholarships based on credit hours instead of academic year.

Tosh says the change would give students an incentive to graduate as early as possible.

The Arkansas Senate has voted to cut the lottery-funded scholarships incoming freshmen will receive and base its eligibility solely on standardized testing, days after the same proposal narrowly failed before the chamber.

The bill approved on a 22-12 vote Monday lowers the scholarship amount incoming freshmen receive from $2,000 to $1,000 and increases the amount sophomores receive from $3,000 to $4,000. The amounts received in the following years - $4,000 for juniors and $5,000 for seniors - would remain the same.

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