Buoyed by a boost in Powerball ticket sales with a jackpot that reached $1.7 billion in the second week of October, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery's revenue for the month increased by $4.8 million over the same month a year ago to $53.8 million.
But the amount raised by the lottery for college scholarships in October slipped by nearly $340,000 over a year ago to $9.5 million.
The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery has been selling tickets since Sept. 28, 2009, and has helped finance Arkansas Challenge Scholarships for more than 30,000 college students during 11 of the past 13 fiscal years.
The lottery's scratch-off ticket revenue in October increased from $36.9 million a year ago to $40.1 million, while the lottery's draw game revenues increased from $12 million a year ago to $13.6 million, the lottery reported this week in its monthly report to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the Legislative Council's lottery oversight subcommittee.
Lottery Director Eric Hagler said Tuesday that the lottery's increased scratch-off ticket sales in October resulted from an "enhanced appetite for the recent roster of [scratch-off] games, which is a testament to the robust selection of games currently in market."
The lottery's Powerball ticket revenues increased from $5.6 million a year ago to $7.4 million last month, while the lottery's Mega Millions ticket revenues increased from $1.5 million a year ago to $1.6 million last month, according to the lottery's reports. The lottery's other draw games include Fast Play, Cash 3, Cash 4, Natural State Jackpot, Lucky for Life and LOTTO.
Hagler said that "enhanced player participation was the driver for the year-over-year increase in sales within the draw [game] category."
In October, the Powerball jackpot ballooned to an estimated $1.7 billion -- the second-largest Powerball jackpot ever -- before the winning ticket was sold in Frazier Park, Calif., on Oct. 11.
In October 2022, the Powerball jackpot had risen to $1 billion by the end of October, according to the lottery. The Powerball jackpot reached $2 billion -- the largest ever in the United States -- on Nov. 7, 2022, and the winning ticket was sold in Altadena, Calif.
The lottery raised $9.5 million for college scholarships in October, down from $9.8 million a year ago.
Hagler said the lottery's overall income in October totaled $12.1 million but "the accrual to cash [accounting] and unclaimed prizes adjustment brought us back to $9.5 million in Net Proceeds for the month of October."
FISCAL 2024 DETAILS
October is the fourth month of Arkansas' fiscal year 2024, which started July 1 and ends June 30, 2024.
During this period in fiscal year 2024, the lottery's revenue totaled $210.6 million, up from $193.7 million compared to the same period in fiscal 2023, according to the lottery's reports.
During the first four months of fiscal year 2024, the lottery has raised $39.8 million for college scholarships, compared with $36.2 million in the same period in fiscal 2023, according to lottery reports.
At the end of the fiscal year, the lottery transfers its unclaimed prize reserve balance minus $1 million to college scholarships under state law.
The lottery's unclaimed prize reserve balance totaled $5.9 million at the end of October after getting $1.39 million in unclaimed prize money in October, according to the lottery.
In fiscal 2023, which ended June 30, the lottery raised $114.7 million for college scholarships, the largest amount the lottery has produced for college scholarships in any fiscal year. The lottery's previous high was $106.6 million raised in fiscal 2021, which ended June 30, 2021.
The lottery's revenue in fiscal 2023 totaled $608.2 million, lagging behind the $632.5 million collected in fiscal 2021. In fiscal 2021, lottery officials attributed the lottery's performance in part to factors brought on by the covid-19 pandemic, such as people spending more time at home.
Hagler attributed the record amount of money raised for college scholarships in fiscal 2023 to collecting more draw-game ticket revenue in fiscal 2023.
For fiscal 2024, the lottery has projected total revenue of $567.9 million and raising $100.7 million for college scholarships.
Hagler said Tuesday that "we are currently on-track for a very good year.
"That said, back in February 2023 Lottery senior management forecasted tough sledding in November and December, so we are expecting some challenges over the next 60 days," he said.
So far in fiscal 2024, the state Division of Higher Education has disbursed $37.9 million in Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships, said Department of Education spokesperson Kim Mundell. She said 27,776 students have been awarded Academic Challenge Scholarships.
In fiscal 2023, the Division of Higher Education disbursed Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships totaling $74.3 million to 26,109 students. For fiscal 2024, the Division of Higher Education projects it will award 27,000 students Academic Challenge Scholarships totaling $75 million.
Fiscal 2023 is the second consecutive fiscal year in the past 13 fiscal years that Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships were awarded to fewer than 30,000 students.
Last year, Nick Fuller, assistant director of finance at the division, said fewer than 30,000 students were awarded the scholarships in fiscal 2022 because of the continued trend of overall enrollment decline in higher education and the total number of high school students continuing to get smaller, leading to a smaller pool from which scholarships are awarded.
The amount handed out for the Academic Challenge Scholarships peaked at $132.9 million in fiscal 2013, with awards going to 33,353 students. Scholarship totals have dropped largely because the Legislature cut the amount of initial scholarships several times.
The Arkansas Academic Challenge scholarships are financed with lottery proceeds, plus $20 million a year in state general revenue.
The 2017 Legislature created the Workforce Challenge Scholarship to use excess proceeds to provide up to $800 per year for students enrolled in programs that lead to qualifications in high-demand occupations.
So far in fiscal 2024, the division has disbursed $415,782 in Workforce Challenge Scholarships, Mundell said. She said 929 students have been awarded Workforce Challenge Scholarships.
In fiscal 2023, the Division of Higher Education disbursed Workforce Challenge Scholarships totaling $521,277 to 701 students. For fiscal 2024, the division projects awarding Workforce Challenge Scholarships totaling $750,000 to 2,000 students.
The 2019 Legislature created the Concurrent Challenge program that allows high school juniors and seniors to receive scholarships for a semester or an academic year in which they are enrolled in an endorsed concurrent course or certain programs.
So far in fiscal 2024, the division has disbursed $1.6 million in Concurrent Challenge Scholarships, Mundell said. She said that 6,331 have been awarded Concurrent Challenge scholarships.
In fiscal 2023, the division disbursed Concurrent Challenge Scholarships totaling $2.6 million to 13,982 students. In fiscal 2024, the division is projecting distributing Concurrent Challenge Scholarships totaling $3 million to 17,000 students.