The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery finished fiscal year 2016 with sales of $455.6 million, up 11.5% over 2015, the lottery officials announced Monday in a report released Monday to the Legislature’s Lottery Oversight Committee.
Because of the sales increase, the money available for scholarships totaled $85.4 million, an increase of $13 million over fiscal year 2015 and $6 million more than Lottery officials had projected. The fiscal year ended June 30. Traditionally, about 19-20% of lottery sales have gone to scholarships.
“This is good news for the Lottery and for Arkansas’s students,” said Larry Walther, director of the Department of Finance and Administration, which has overseen the lottery since 2015. “The promise of the lottery is ensuring more of our best and brightest attend college, and I look forward to ensuring that promise is kept.”
The Lottery reported its best sales ever for Powerball, Cash 3, FastPlay, Lucky for Life and $5 and $20 instant ticket games. Instant ticket sales increased $25 million over 2015, while draw games increased more than $22 million.
Created in 2009, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Act has funded more than 200,000 Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships worth more than $600 million.
Lottery officials entered the fiscal year’s last month knowing they were having a good year. Director Bishop Woolsey said in an interview last month that sales were helped by the interest generated by the January Powerball jackpot that reached $1.6 billion.
After sluggish sales in recent years, Woolsey said the Lottery began working about two years 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.