- Associated Press - Thursday, May 14, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas lottery will have more money available for college scholarships next year because of cutbacks to the organization, but its revenues are running behind expectations so far this year, the games’ director told lawmakers Thursday.

Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said that the games are projected to generate $79.5 million in net proceeds for scholarships in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. That marks a $1.4 million increase over the amount budgeted for this year.

The cutbacks include several positions that were eliminated when the lottery was moved under the governor’s control and the closing of three prize claim centers around the state. The games are projected a drop in ticket sales for draw games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, and a slight increase in scratch-off ticket sales.

“A lot of that has to do with … reductions in cost,” Woosley told the lottery’s legislative oversight committee. “We’ve accounted for the fact that the (draw games) sales will continue to drop until we can get those curtailed and turned around.”

Woosley said the lottery is currently about $3 million behind its forecast net proceeds for the current fiscal year.

Voters approved the lottery in 2008 to raise money for college scholarships, and the state began selling tickets the following year. Thursday was the first legislative hearing since lawmakers voted to abolish the independent commission running the lottery, putting the games under the state Department of Finance and Administration.

DFA Director Larry Walther said he planned to soon seek bids for a consultant that will help the lottery develop a five-year strategic plan to help boost the games’ revenue.

The lawmaker who had called for the games’ overhaul said the changes were needed to address the declines in ticket sales, and that he believed the games were on track to find ways to boost revenue.

“This lottery is a business, and our hope is we can run it as efficiently as any business in the state,” said Republican Sen. Jimmy Hickey, who co-chairs the legislative panel.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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