The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Commission has voted to lower projected net proceeds for scholarships for the current fiscal year from about $89.5 million to about $82.8 million, a reduction of more than 7.5 percent.
The unanimous vote came after a meeting where commissioners learned net proceeds in January were down more than 14 percent and nearly 20 percent off budget. Fiscal year to date, net proceeds were off more than 10 percent from the same point a year earlier.
"It's always disappointing when you have to stand before your bosses and the students and say we're making less money and therefore there's going to be less money for scholarships," Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said after a meeting where allowing debit cards for lottery purchases and Keno were raised as possibilities. "My job is to tell them how I think we can make more. And that's what I did today."
Net proceeds for scholarships were about $5.6 million in January, down 14.1 percent from a year earlier. The proceeds were 19.5 percent below the previously projected budget for the month.
The figures don't include money from unclaimed prizes, which totaled more than $1.1 million in January. Director Bishop Woosley said that was a high total for a month aided in part by a $250,000 jackpot that wasn't claimed within six months of the draw date.
Earlier Wednesday, a commission subcommittee opted to research debit cards further before deciding whether to seek legislative approval. Woosley said debit cards would likely require a law change.
Asked afterward about them and Keno, Woosley said they are "some of the answers we have" to improve revenues.
"As you grow as a business, you look for new sources of revenue and new ways to make money," he said. "If you look at any other business in the world, they grow, they expand their product base, they do things of that nature. We're no different."