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Weekly Address — November 21, 2019

From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.

The state lottery is 10 years old, and every year it provides scholarships to more than 30,000 college students in Arkansas.

Those scholarships are worth about $90 million each year. Over the 10 years in which we have had a state lottery, three times the legislature has had to modify scholarship amounts in order to preserve the financial strength of the system.

Arkansas lottery officials will be closely watching the financial impact of the Mississippi lottery, which begins on November 25.

At the same time, we’re closely monitoring the impact of expanded casino gambling on lottery revenues.

It is too soon to determine with accuracy how lottery numbers will be affected by the expansion of casinos in West Memphis and Hot Springs, and the building of a new casino in Pine Bluff.

For the past four months, lottery ticket sales are down 2.5 percent in Crittenden County, but up by 2.6 percent in Garland County and 8.5 percent in Jefferson County.

That is a text-book example of what the experts call “mixed results.”

One factor that makes it difficult to predict lottery revenue is that so many people in Arkansas buy tickets when the jackpots for Powerball and Mega Millions approach a billion dollars.

This becomes crystal clear when you compare lottery ticket sales from October of this year, compared to last year. Last October, the jackpot for Mega Millions reached $1.5 billion and the Powerball jackpot was about $700 million.

Because of the heightened publicity over those enormous jackpots, Arkansas lottery revenue in October of last year was $57 million. This year it fell to $39 million, because the big national jackpots were fairly small, compared to last year.

As far as the legislature is concerned, the important thing is to maintain college scholarships at their current levels.

From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.


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