With a month remaining in the fiscal year, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery surpassed last year’s total cash sales over the Memorial Day weekend, the Lottery announced Wednesday. The gain will boost money available for college scholarships, officials said.
Total sales have reached more than $419 million, compared to more than $410 million for all of fiscal 2015.
Sales of instant tickets have increased more than $26 million – from $306 million in the first 11 months of 2015 to $332 million the first 11 months of this fiscal year (July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016). Cash sales in 2016 for draw game sales – games that have jackpot drawings such as Powerball – have reached $88.631 million, breaking the previous record of $87.682 million set in 2014. Director Bishop Woolsey said in an interview that sales were helped by the interest generated by the January Powerball jackpot that reached $1.6 billion.
Draw games are up $20.6 million from the $68 million sold at this point in 2015, a down year when Woolsey said jackpots never hit those stratospheric numbers – traditionally $200 million, maybe $300 million now – when sales rise.
Created in 2009, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Act has funded more than 200,000 Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships worth more than $573 million. Woolsey said traditionally, about 19-20% of lottery sales have gone to scholarships. With the increased sales, he said the lottery is on pace to provide $10 to $12 million more in scholarships than last year. If every recipient were to earn the full $15,000 over four years, that would mean up to an additional 800 scholarships.
After sluggish sales in recent years, Woolsey said the Lottery began about 20 months ago to change the games, advertising and retail execution.
To reduce costs, the Legislature in 2015 passed Act 1105, which cut freshman lottery scholarship winners’ awards in half to $1,000, while sophomore awards were increased from $2,000 to $3,000. Act 218 that year moved administration of the Lottery from the Lottery Commission to the Department of Finance and Administration.
Overall, players have won nearly $2 billion in prizes, and lottery retailers have received more than $166 million in commissions. According to the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, more than 92% of revenue dollars goes to prizes, scholarships and retailer commissions.
Wednesday (June 1) is the deadline for traditional and nontraditional students to apply for the scholarship at scholarships.ADHE.edu.