opinion by Maylon Rice
Editor’s note: Maylon Rice is a former newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several newspapers over the past 40 years. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
If I were a small convenience store owner enjoying the nuances of selling a plethora of Arkansas Lottery tickets, a pack of Marlboros, a Slim Jim or two, an occasional case of beer and a couple of gallons of unleaded fuel, news this week coming out of Little Rock would cause me to be afraid.
After more than a week of “hush hush” negotiations with no publicity between the Arkansas Lottery management and the appointed board to overseer this agency, someone spilled the beans. The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, is conducting a “test” of selling Arkansas Lottery tickets, in their very own test market store – the Walmart To-Go Store in Bentonville.
This prototype of a futuristic Walmart To-Go Store will, you see, be the convenience store of the future. Yes, that “test” store is also located in the virtual shadow of the “Home Office.” In Walmart lingo that means the corporate headquarters where all decisions great and small of Walmart are made. Yes, that Walmart To-Go Store in Bentonville is the only Walmart in our state selling Arkansas lottery tickets.
This decision, I wager, will be a no-brainer. Especially given the sluggish state of the Arkansas Lottery games finances and its seemingly desperate management to attract more players and dollars to the games.
Now is the time, Mr. and Mrs. Small Lottery Retailer in Arkansas towns with a Walmart Store, to be afraid. Very afraid. The lottery may be virtually new to Arkansans, but such games of chance are nonexistent in Walmart Stores in the rest of the USA. But wait; wait for it, all states except for that pushy art deco isthmus, the Sunshine State of Florida. The Florida Lottery has had a foot in the Walmart doorway since a test run in September 2011 when the nation’s largest retailer struck a deal with the Florida Lotto folks.
And while Walmart folks may feign actual interest and excitement in Arkansas Lottery sales, folks, this is a cash business. Real cash which is liquid to the Walmart core business model.
There are to be discounts, no telling how much or how big, the state of Arkansas will discount these tickets to the giant retailer for their involvement. Surely the discounts will be more than the local Stop-And-Go in downtown Hazen or Hope receives.
There are prize winnings to be shared. No telling how many jackpots Walmart Stores could share in with their potential sales. It just takes one of buyer to gets lucky and boom, a $10,000 or $100,000 windfall for that Walmart Store. It’s also a windfall to the mom and pop stores in Alma or Eudora, who hope someone,pulls that six-to-seven figure winning Powerball or Mega Millions from their store.
Walmart Stores once, gingerly, got into the automobile fuel business. Now they are all in. Walmart Stores, finally, in Arkansas, got into the beer and wine business. Ask Mr. Small Liquor Store owner in Dermott or West Memphis to match the Home Office’s price point on Bud or Bud Lite?
The lottery experiment in Florida started with 27 Neighborhood Markets. It has since expanded. The Florida Lottery’s press release in 2011 accounting the Walmart connection began like this: “Florida may have just hit a jackpot”
I’ll wager this, pun intended, if Walmart asks the Arkansas Lottery Commission to print the store’s corporate logo on the tickets they sell – the Lottery folks will do it.
No doubt Bishop Woolsey and the others who labor to keep the dollars rolling in for scholarships will agree: Arkansas may be on track to have hit the jackpot for future sales. It is just a matter of time and fine tuning the deal.
Walmart Stores in other countries sell lottery tickets but not in this country, the Florida Lottery officials said in that 2011 release.
Back in 2011, the Florida Lottery officials started off having the Walmart stores sell tickets for its six terminal games such as Powerball and Mega Money as well as scratch-off tickets through instant ticket vending machines. In 2011, the deal between the world’s largest retailer and the Florida Lottery came amid a time when the lottery was trying to push its sales back up in order to provide more money for education. That scenario sure sounds familiar.
Some naysayers may say “that’s Florida, not Arkansas.”
Will Walmart’s start selling Arkansas Lottery tickets? It’s not a safe bet. But a dollar is a dollar. And profit is a profit.
I just wonder where the scratcher automat machine will be. Will it be next to the Redbox or across from the Walmart Money Center?