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Lottery to pursue allowing debit-card payments

February proceeds down, director tells commission

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published March 19, 2014 at 9:23 a.m. Updated March 19, 2014 at 11:41 a.m.

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Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Director Bishop Woosley gives a report to the lottery commission Wednesday.

This document released before an Arkansas Scholarship Lottery meeting shows February 2014 revenue compared to February 2013.

The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery commission Wednesday voted unanimously to authorize the agency director to pursue a change in law that would allow retailers to accept debit cards for lottery purchases.

Lottery director Bishop Woosley recommended retailers be allowed to take debit cards because it would likely provide some sales bump and because lotteries across the country are moving toward non-cash transactions. But doing so, he said, would likely require a change in state law, so approaching the legislature with the issue seems like the best next step.

"The next general session, I think they would correct me if I was wrong" and declared it legal under existing law, Bishop told a commission subcommittee earlier Wednesday. "And I think they would correct me with extreme prejudice. I think we need to err on the side of caution."

The lottery statute says tickets can be sold for "cash." At issue is whether a debit card can be considered the same as cash or if allowing their use would require a change in the law.

The vote came on the same day the commission received a focus group study that included questions on debit card use and letters from some retailers opposed to the idea.

David Johnson, who operates three convenience stores in Northwest Arkansas, said in a Jan. 23 letter to a lottery official that the 1.25 percent to 3.5 percent charged for debit transactions would "cut deeply into retailer profit."

"Allowing this would be a disaster for retailers," he wrote.

Commission members stressed that authorizing Woosley to seek a change in the law was a first step and not the final decision on whether debit cards would be allowed or, if so, how it would be set up.

"We recognize our retailers as valued partners," commissioner Doug Pierce said. "We don't want to do anything to harm them. And our ultimate goal is to find middle ground and a solution that works for both of us."

Woosley said the lottery is "sympathetic" to the retailer concerns, but said there are ways to make it work. Thirty-seven lotteries across the country accept debit cards, he noted.

"I think [retailers] understand business decisions," he said. "And we'll make the best of it with them if this is ultimately approved."

Also Wednesday, Woosley reported lottery net proceeds for scholarships were down in February from a year earlier.

He offered commissioners an overview of the February figures after the commission convened at 10 a.m., saying the declining figures were based in part on bad weather and a winner who claimed a big prize.

A copy of Woosley's report shows net proceeds for scholarships were about $5.9 million in February, down 8.3 percent from more than $6.4 million in February 2013.

Instant or scratch-off ticket sales were down 15 percent over that same span from nearly $36.4 million to about $30.9 million. Online tickets, which include Powerball and Mega Millions, increased almost 47 percent from nearly $5.5 million to more than $8 million this February.

The commission voted in February to revise downward its projected net proceeds for the current fiscal year from $89.5 million to about $82.8 million.

Woosley's report shows the $5.9 million in February net proceeds were off 18.7 percent from the revised budget of nearly $7.3 million for the month. Instant ticket sales were slightly higher than projected, while online tickets were down slightly from budget in February.

Woosley said a series of winter weather events coincided with four instant game launches, leading to a decline in those sales. And, he said, a Little Rock player who claimed a $1 million scratch-off winner negatively affected the month's bottom line.

"A million-dollar winner is always good for winner awareness," he said. "On the other hand, we have to put it on our books and account for it."

Comments on: Lottery to pursue allowing debit-card payments

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Felina says... March 19, 2014 at 12:42 p.m.

Desperate times call for desperate measures to drain the desperate dreamers of what little they have. Good luck with that.

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AmericasDoomed says... March 19, 2014 at 1:16 p.m.

Exactly Felina. Whatever they have to do to suck more money out of Arkansans pockets. The ones who can least afford it.

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Pobucker says... March 19, 2014 at 1:55 p.m.

DRAINING and SUCKING are active verbs, you two. Nobody is forcing anybody to do anything and both of you know that. This means both of your comments are subversive, untruthful, designed as mere propaganda. This lumps you in with the great lottery whiner, Paul Greenberg. Enjoy your company with the lying malcontents, you devilish dogs.

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Jfish says... March 19, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.

Well said Felina.

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GrimReaper says... March 19, 2014 at 3:31 p.m.

Credit Cards! If these jokers want to get a real 'bump' they need to accept credit cards. It's
the American way and the bankers need that interest............

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LevyRat says... March 19, 2014 at 3:43 p.m.

Felina and AmericasDoomed .....TAX AND SPEND LIBERAL DEMOCRATS like you two gave us this "wonderful" lottery .... and yes, some poor people play the lottery, but not many .... remember poor "desperate dreamsers" don't have any money ...... and maybe it is because the played the lottery?

I like the lottery because ..... I don't have to PAY unless I choose to, and since it is a "fools bet", I don't!

If you want to do something to help poor people, GET THE TAX AND SPEND LIBERAL DEMOCRATS like Mark Stodola and Buddy Villines to quit putting sales tax on FOOD, ELECTRICITY (twice), NATURAL GAS (twice), WATER, SEWER, etc.

The only state with higher Sales Tax and Arkansas ..... Tennessee, but they don't have an income tax!

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hogfan2012 says... March 19, 2014 at 4:56 p.m.

Grim Reaper - can't use credit cards. If they don't win any $$, they will "dispute" the charges and say they didn't do it.

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Felina says... March 19, 2014 at 5:18 p.m.

It is interesting to see who sticks to debating the subject civilly and who stoops to insults and bizarre characterizations! Tax and spend liberal? I am fiscally conservative and have never supported the lottery. The fact remains that this is a failed project that relies on users to engage in magical thinking in order to suspend any knowlege of the laws of probability. Certainly, we are all entitled to indulge in our own dreams now and again, but it is foolish for the state to rely on such flights of fancy as an ongoing source of revenue.

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WillieHeckaslyke says... March 19, 2014 at 8:37 p.m.

Is there no carcass these maggots will forego?

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wolfman says... March 19, 2014 at 10:28 p.m.

Id play the lottery of I could use my debit card. who carries cash anymore. and the retailers can suck up the charges. Just think most consumers buy more than lottery tickets when in a side of the road store. make it where it can be added to that soft drink...tank of gas or gallon of milk.

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