An increase in the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery's scratch-off ticket revenue in May bolstered the month's overall revenue and the amount raised for college scholarships compared with a year ago.
And for the first 11 months of this fiscal year, the lottery's total revenue exceeds totals from the same period in any of its eight previous fiscal years, while the amount raised for college scholarships is the largest at this point since fiscal 2013.
The lottery's revenue totaled $40.4 million in May -- up from $38.1 million a year ago -- the agency said in its monthly report to Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Legislative Council's lottery oversight subcommittee. That's the most total money collected for the month since 2013, when the lottery took in $42.2 million.
Also in May, the lottery raised $8 million for college scholarships, which is a $1 million increase over the same month a year ago, the lottery reported. That's also the largest amount raised for college scholarships for the month since 2013, when net proceeds totaled $9.8 million.
Scratch-off ticket revenue in May increased from $31.8 million a year ago to $34.1 million because the agency launched a Jackpot-themed family of games in May and "our advertising strategy and retail execution continue to be strong," said lottery Director Bishop Woosley.
Draw game revenue inched down slightly from $6.3 million from a year ago to $6.2 million because "we had a better Powerball month last year due to the jackpot growing over $300 [million]," he said this week. "We did better in Mega Millions this May and that kept us close to last year."
Other revenue includes retailer fees that totaled $50,505 in May. The lottery reported 1,937 retailers as of May 31.
The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery started selling tickets Sept. 28, 2009. It has helped finance more than 30,000 Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships a year for the past several fiscal years. The scholarships also are financed by $20 million a year in state general revenue and a $20 million reserve fund that covers temporary cash flow shortages.
During the first 11 months of fiscal 2018, which ends June 30, the lottery reported collecting $462.8 million in revenue. That's more than it's ever collected at this point in any previous fiscal year.
So far in fiscal 2018, it reported raising $78.6 million for college scholarships and that's the most since fiscal 2013, when it raised $81.3 million 11 months into the fiscal year.
At the end of the fiscal year, the lottery transfers its unclaimed prize reserve balance, which totaled $6.9 million as of May 31, minus $1 million, to college scholarships under state law.
"Our sales [for] June are good, so I hope that we can finish strong and raise $90 million or more this fiscal year," Woosley said this week.
Last year, he projected the lottery's revenue would reach $459 million -- a mark already passed -- and the amount raised for college scholarships would total $83.6 million in fiscal 2018.
Since Aug. 1, state law gives lottery retailers the option of accepting payment via debit cards. State law previously limited them to accepting only cash for ticket purchases.
It's unknown how much of a bump these debit card purchases have added to the lottery's bottom line.
Woosley said the lottery will soon begin conducting a survey of how many of its more than 1,900 retailers accept debit cards. That survey should be completed by mid-July.
So far in fiscal 2018, $91.8 million in Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships have been awarded to 34,943 students, said Department of Higher Education spokeswoman Alisha Lewis.
In fiscal 2017, the department handed out $86.2 million in scholarships, a drop from $96.5 million in the previous fiscal year.
For fiscal 2017, the eligibility standards were changed and the scholarship size for first-year students was cut by the 2015 Legislature. The largest amount handed out in Academic Challenge Scholarships was $132.9 million distributed in fiscal 2013, the department reported.
The Legislature has cut the size of future scholarships for some recipients three times because of net proceeds falling short of initial projections and more students than projected receiving the scholarship.
The lottery's revenue and net proceeds peaked at $473.6 million and $97.5 million, respectively, in fiscal 2012 before declining in the next three fiscal years.
Total revenue and net proceeds rebounded to $456.3 million and $85.2 million, respectively, in fiscal 2016, with the assistance of a $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot in January 2016. Revenue dropped to $449.9 million and net proceeds remained at $85.2 million in fiscal 2017.
The Legislature in 2017 created a new scholarship program to be financed with excess proceeds. It's called the Arkansas Workforce Challenge Scholarship, which will be distributed to students for the first time during the coming school year.
The Arkansas Workforce Challenge Scholarships of up to $800 a year are for students enrolled in programs that lead to qualification for jobs in high-demand occupations.
Lewis said it's very difficult to predict how many Workforce Challenge Scholarships will be distributed because it's a new program and can be obtained for non-credit programs.
The deadline for students to apply for the Academic Challenge Scholarship is Friday, while applications for the Workforce Challenge Scholarships can be submitted year round, but they must be completed 30 days prior to the start of class, she said.
A Section on 06/14/2018
Print Headline: Scratch-off tickets' $34M boosts lottery