The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery's revenue in October increased by $3.7 million over the same month a year ago, to $42.6 million, with the help of increases in both scratch-off and draw game ticket revenue.
The amount raised for college scholarships in October increased by $2.1 million over a year ago, to $8.4 million.
The lottery noted these figures in its monthly report dated Tuesday to Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Legislative Council's lottery oversight co-Chairs Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, and Rep. Laurie Rushing, R-Hot Springs.
Both the lottery's revenue and the amount raised for college scholarships in October rank third-highest for that month in the lottery's history. The lottery started selling tickets on Sept. 28, 2009, and has helped finance more than 30,000 Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships during each of the past 10 fiscal years.
Lottery Director Eric Hagler said the covid-19 pandemic has limited entertainment options for Arkansans, creating additional demand for lottery games.
"As venues re-open, consumers will have more options for entertainment and that will be our challenge," he said Tuesday in a written statement.
October is the fourth month of fiscal 2021, which ends June 30.
During the first four months of fiscal 2021, the lottery's revenue totaled $189.5 million, compared with $157.2 million in the same period in fiscal 2020, according to the lottery's reports.
So far in fiscal 2021, the lottery's scratch-off revenue totaled $162.1 million -- up from $132.3 million in the same period last year -- and draw game revenue totaled $27.1 million -- up from $24.7 million in the same period in fiscal 2020.
The lottery's other revenue include fees paid by lottery retailers that totaled about $245,000 so far in fiscal 2021, compared with about $241,000 in the same period in fiscal 2020.
So far in fiscal 2021, the amount raised for college scholarships totaled $32.5 million, compared with $22.3 million in the same four-month period in fiscal 2020.
At the end of the fiscal year, the lottery will transfer the balance in its unclaimed prize fund, minus $1 million, to scholarships. At the end of October, the unclaimed prize fund totaled $2 million after receiving about $89,000 in unclaimed prize money.
Hagler, who has been the lottery's director since Aug. 6, said Tuesday that while the lottery is well ahead of its projected budget, it's starting to see some "headwinds."
"The uncertainty surrounding the possible resurgence of the virus is also a concern, as there does not appear to be additional [federal] stimulus funds on the immediate horizon," he said in the written statement.
"When in the midst of a sea change in how business is conducted globally, forecasting becomes very difficult. And while we do not want to become short-sighted, we likewise do not want to get over the front of our skis. We remain cautiously optimistic," Hagler said.
For fiscal 2021, the previous lottery director, Bishop Woosley, projected revenue would total $465.8 million and the amount raised for college scholarships would be $78.2 million. Regarding that projection, Woosley said in May, 'There is a great deal of uncertainty in the lottery world and the world in general right now."
Revenue totaled $532 million in fiscal 2020, eclipsing the previous record of $516.2 million in fiscal 2019. The amount raised for college scholarships reached $89.4 million in fiscal 2020, which was the sixth-largest amount in the lottery's history. The record amount raised for college scholarships was $98.6 million in fiscal 2019.
Woosley attributed the drop in the amount raised for college scholarships in fiscal 2020 to poor sales for Mega Millions and Powerball jackpot games. Mega Millions and Powerball are draw-game tickets, which are more profitable for the lottery than scratch-off tickets.
In October, the lottery's scratch-off ticket revenue increased from $32.3 million in 2019 to $35.4 million this year, while draw-game ticket revenue increased from $6.5 million in 2019 to $7.1 million this year, according to the lottery's monthly reports.
Hagler said the lottery's increased scratch-off revenue last month reflected an increase in overall lottery revenue.
"Consistent with past history, scratch off sales account for approximately 80% of total sales of lottery games in Arkansas, which is similar percentage-wise to the monolithic Texas lottery," he said.
Hagler said the lottery's draw game ticket revenue increased last month because the Natural State Jackpot game "has become tremendously popular," there is a "great appetite" for the Cash 3 and Cash 4 games, and the multi-state jackpot games "seem to have seen a 're-set' vis-a-vis jackpot expectations."
"The days of seeing outsized jackpots seems to have waned, but the games still have significant win- proposition and players of Powerball and Mega Millions have now adjusted their jackpot [sights] and are returning to the game," he said.
In October, the lottery's draw game revenue included $1.54 million from Powerball ticket revenue, $1.38 million from Fast Play ticket revenue, $1.35 million from Natural State Jackpot revenue, $1.12 million from Mega Millions ticket revenue, $922,000 from Cash 3 ticket revenue, $518,296 from Cash 4 ticket revenue and $275,368 from Lucky for Life ticket revenue, according to the lottery's report.
The Arkansas Division of Higher Education spent $90.6 million on Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships awarded to 31,649 students in fiscal 2020, according to its report to the Legislative Council's lottery oversight committee. These scholarships also are financed by $20 million a year in state general revenue.
The division forecasts it will distribute $91 million in these scholarships to 31,000 students in fiscal 2021.
Total Academic Challenge Scholarships peaked at $132.9 million in fiscal 2013, going to 33,533 students. That's dropped since then, largely because of the Legislature cutting the amount of the initial scholarships three times in 11 years.
According to the division, it spent $112.7 million on Academic Challenge Scholarships for 35,303 students in fiscal 2014; $99.7 million on these scholarships for 34,969 students in fiscal 2015; $96.4 million for 34,654 students in fiscal 2016; $86.1 million for 33,225 students in fiscal 2017; $91.9 million for 33,010 students in fiscal 2018; and then $92.6 million for 32,486 students in fiscal 2019.