Scholarships funded during the more than three years from the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery total more than $300 million, according to program figures released Monday (Dec. 10).

Lottery sales began Sept. 28, 2009, with the program generating an average of $7.9 million per month in scholarships for Arkansas students.

“In three years, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery has provided funding for more than 90,000 scholarships,” Director Bishop Woosley said in the statement. “With the support of our Commission, the Governor, and the Legislative Oversight Committee, we have done our best to run a financially sound operation with security and integrity in our gaming offerings, factual and effective advertising, transparency in our day-to-day business, and fairness to our players and retailers. We are, above all, proud of the thousands of scholarship students — those who have graduated and those working toward their goals.”

The program received a big boost in November thanks to the $587.5 million Powerball drawing held Nov. 28. Arkansas lottery officials said the much-publicized drawing boosted scholarship funds during November by $3.4 million.

It is unknown if the boost will reverse a trend of declining collections during the first few months of Arkansas’ fiscal year. Early projections are that fiscal year revenue from the program could decline by $7 million.

Arkansas Department of Higher Education Interim Director Shane Broadway has said a lottery program deficit can be avoided if scholarship amounts are reduced to $3,300 and $1,650 for four- and two-years schools, respectively.

Scholarship levels the first year of the program were $5,000 for four-year schools and $2,500 for two-year schools. The second year scholarship levels were reduced to $4,500 for four-year students and $2,250 for two-year students.

HOLIDAY GIFTING MESSAGE
Lottery officials are also asking that tickets not be purchased as gifts for children, saying   they are “not appropriate holiday gifts for children and teens under the age of 18.”

“Parents and caregivers, uncles and aunts, grandparents and friends see the Lottery as fun and entertaining. They may forget that these tickets are for adults. The Arkansas Lottery Commission will continue to partner with our retailers and the Arkansas Department of Human Services to promote a clear message: Lottery tickets are not child’s play,” noted a statement from the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship program.

Other details about the lottery included in Monday’s message included:
• Arkansas is the most recent startup of the 43 American states with lotteries;
• The creation of the Arkansas Lottery began in November 2008 when 63% of state voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing a lottery solely to benefit Arkansas college students;
• The Commission first met in May 2009, and staffers began working in June 2009, resulting in the offering of the first four tickets in late September; and,
• The Lottery now offers for sale about 75 instant and online tickets, through a retailer base of almost 1,900 businesses in all 75 Arkansas counties.