September 3, 2014 Edition

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Lottery sales reported at
$13.8 million in Lawrence Co.

Sen. Robert Thompson (left) of Paragould, guest of Dr. Harold Willmuth, spoke to local Kiwanis members about the Arkansas lottery.

John Bland Publisher

At the end of 2013, a total of $13.8 million had been spent on lottery tickets in Lawrence County since the Arkansas lottery began in September of 2009. Approximately 60 percent of that money, or $8.3 million, has been paid out in prize money, according to Sen. Robert F. Thompson of Paragould.

Thompson, who is state senator for District 20, which includes Lawrence County, shared these statistics when he spoke to the Kiwanis Club in Walnut Ridge, recently. Thompson is in his 10th year in the state legislature and is chairman of the Arkansas Lottery Commission Legislative Oversight Committee.

Kum and Go in Black Rock is the number one vendor of lottery tickets in the county, Thompson said. Since it began, the business has sold $1.6 million in tickets with average weekly sales of $7,300.

Thompson said the Kum and Go’s location on U.S. Hwy. 63 would imply that its high lottery sales are attributed, in large part, to people traveling through the county.

The top six vendors of lottery tickets in Lawrence County are as follows:

1. Kum and Go, Black Rock,
2. Hoxie Citgo,
3. Tobacco Superstore, Hoxie,
4. Southpoint Exxon, Walnut Ridge,
5. Flash Market, Walnut Ridge,
6. Big Al’s, Walnut Ridge.

Thompson shared the brief history of the Arkansas lottery. In 2008, an initiative from the people put the constitutional amendment to establish the lottery on the ballot. The amendment was approved by a two-thirds vote in the November 2008 General Election.

"I voted against the lottery," Thompson said.

State revenue is $300 to $400 million

The committee, which he chairs, is charged with the responsibility to see that the lottery amendment is carried out as intended – to fund college scholarships.

The gross revenue brought in by the Arkansas lottery has been between $300 and $400 million annually, he said. By law, that revenue must be used in three ways: for overhead costs of conducting the lottery, for prizes and for college scholarships.

The overhead costs of conducting the lottery are about 12 to 15 percent of the gross revenue, and most of this overhead is paid to vendors, Thompson said. After prizes are paid out, the remaining 25 to 30 percent of revenue goes for college scholarships.

In the first year, the lottery grossed approximately $400 million statewide in revenue, paying out 60 percent of that revenue in prizes. Thompson said that a person who spends $1,000 a year on the lottery will, on average, get back about $600 (or 60 percent) in prizes.

Therefore, the advice Thompson has heard is that people who play the lottery should do so for entertainment and not with the intent to make money.

As has happened in other states, the lottery’s gross revenue has been declining every year since it was established. The past year, the revenue was closer to $300 million. New and different games must be offered to maintain people’s interest in playing the lottery, Thompson said.

"The biggest thing that cuts into lottery sales is gas prices," he said.

With the decline in revenue, the amount of money given for scholarships has also declined. In 2010, the lottery’s Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship was set at $5,000 annually over four years. That amount declined to $4,500 in 2011 and 2012.

In 2014, scholarships to qualifying college students are set at:

$2,000 ~ first year,
$3,000 ~ second year,
$4,000 ~ third year,
$5,000 ~ fourth year.

531 LawCo. students have benefitted

Since the fall of 2010, a total of 531 students from Lawrence County have received the lottery-funded scholarships, Thompson said. During the 2013-14 academic year a total of 98 Lawrence County students were awarded the scholarships.

The scholarships can be used at any two- or four-year college in the state. To qualify, high school students must have at least a 2.5 grade-point average on a college-bound curriculum or score 19 or higher on the ACT.

To keep the scholarship, college students must carry at least 15 hours per semester and maintain a 2.5 GPA.

Regarding the future, Thompson said the legislature has passed a bill that prohibits the lottery from adding casino-type games and machines until more research is done. He said he personally doesn’t want to see mini-casinos in convenience stores across the state.

Thompson said he thinks that out of the 50 states, 43 of them have lotteries.

Sales on lottery tickets are non-taxable, he added.

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