The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery reports that during the budget year that ended June 30, a record $500.4 million in revenue was collected. Nearly $92 million of that will go toward college scholarships, which is the third highest amount since the lottery was created in 2009.
"We broke several records, and we had an excellent year for our proceeds," said Lottery Director Bishop Woosley. He attributed the growth to a number of factors, including large Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots, along with growth in the sales of instant ticket games.
"There's been a trend, but I think we've just really kind of broken through in the last year with our games. We had several very good instant games – we set a sales record for $5 dollar instants, $10 dollar instants and $20 dollar instants, so obviously our players like that."
Another factor that Woosley believes helped boost sales was a change in August allowing the use of debit cards to buy lottery tickets. Before then, cash was required. He also cited changes in marketing.
"We've improved our advertising campaigns and brought some more awareness to our games, and within our retail establishments, I think we've done a lot of work there to improve what we're doing," Woosley said. "So it’s really kind of a perfect storm of improvement on our part."
The revenue total for the 2018 fiscal year, which was released Tuesday, surpassed the previous record of $473.6 million in fiscal 2012.
In a written statement, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that, "Since being approved by voters in 2008, the Arkansas Lottery has had ups and downs." He noted that in 2015 a change in oversight was enacted, with the Department of Finance and Administration now supervising the lottery.
"Since then the funds for scholarships have increased significantly, going from $72M in the year I became Governor to nearly $92M for scholarships this fiscal year."
Woosley said he hopes this record year will mean even more money for scholarships in the future but that will be decided next year by Arkansas state lawmakers.
"There's certainly more money available. It's a good problem to have. The legislature may look at the amount that we're raising and change some of the requirements or raise some of the amounts hopefully," Woosley said. "That's what we're here for, to raise as much as possible and they get to make the decision on how to spend it, so we're hopeful that this will help."