Lottery director Bishop Woosley has been a part of the executive team for the nearly 10 years of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, a public policy initiative championed by former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and passed by voters in 2008 by a 63-37% margin.
Woosley said by the time the 10-year mark hits in September 2019, there will likely be more than $990 million in lottery scholarships distributed to Arkansas students over the past decade.
“We will have topped 500,000 scholarships that have been handed out, so you think about what was available before we existed, which was roughly $20 million in general revenue. We’ve tacked on top of that,” he said. “I’m hoping that we have some type of legacy that people understand that, ‘hey, maybe I’m accruing a little bit less debt. Maybe I have an opportunity to go to a two-year school.’ Or you know, we have these new Workforce Challenge Scholarships, so hopefully an entire generation of Arkansans is going to look back and say, ‘you know, it was a little bit easier for me because that Scholarship Lottery existed.'”
This year, it is likely that the state’s lottery will top $500 million in revenues and exceed last year’s record year of $500.4 million. It will also likely dole out $100 million in scholarships, which would be a historic first.
“We may be approaching the magic $100 million number that has been so elusive,” Woosley said, thanks to a number of record Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots.
The state’s lottery chief said that algorithms have been changed at the national level to create those larger big jackpots, which draw in more participants in hopes of a major payoff. Winning the big drawings is still a matter of fate and chance, he says.
“We’ve changed the matrix on it a couple times… which obviously makes the odds longer for the top prize. It makes it grow faster and higher. And so you’ve seen – probably since 2016 – we’ve had two over $1.5 billion jackpots. And you know, right now, we’ve got a $530 million Mega Millions jackpot which five years ago would’ve been the record and everyone would have been running around with their hair on fire,” Woosley said.
That matrix change is a complicated function of odds-making based on population and participation.
“As games grow, the number of people buying the game grows and… you’re generally going to make the matrix a little bit bigger to make the odds match that population buying the tickets,” he said.
Woosley also reminded college-bound students and parents of an upcoming July 1 deadline to register for Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships. The web portal is universal for applications and will steer participants to other potential scholarship opportunities. Click here for more details.
You can watch Woosley’s full interview below.