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Ark. lottery posts $89.9M for college scholarships

Chuck Bartels, Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- The newness may have worn off the Arkansas lottery, which saw a drop of $37 million in sales of its instant ticket games in the just-ended fiscal year, according to budget figures released by the lottery on Wednesday.

The state-run gambling operation generated $89.1 million for college scholarships for the fiscal year that ended June 30, about 10 percent less than projected when the budget was being developed more than a year before.

To accommodate diminished revenues, legislators this year altered the formula for scholarship awards, giving university freshmen $2,000, with the amount rising by $1,000 annually through their senior year.

The Arkansas lottery has relied heavily on sales of instant tickets and sells a greater proportion of them than any other state.

Instant tickets accounted for 81 percent of sales, equal to $355 million but that was down by 9.4 percent from the year before.

Lottery director Bishop Woosley said the bulk of the drop happened in the start of the fiscal year. The state was suffering through drought and pounding heat last July and August, which was thought to have hindered sales.

"I would say that the drop was a combination of the economy, the drought and the natural progression of the life of lottery. It is typical after 2-3 years for lotteries to experience some drop in sales and revenue based on the honeymoon period ending and some fatigue. I think we saw that in the early part of this fiscal year," Woosley said in an email.

The lottery began selling tickets in 2009.

Woosley has worked to promote sales of draw games, such as Powerball and Mega Millions, and the lottery introduced an Arkansas-only draw game, Natural State Jackpot.

Sales from those games were up about $1 million from a year before, according to lottery figures, but Woosley said Mega Millions results were a disappointment.

"Mega Millions had a year where the jackpot only exceeded $100 million a few times. As a result, we were down over $11.6 million dollars in that one game versus last year's total. If you account for that in terms of proceeds, that is over $4.5 million in profits we did not see just based on one game being down this year," Woosley said.

The lottery had total revenue of $440 million.