Drawing games will start later in the year
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Lottery Commission set official target dates Friday for the first lottery tickets to go on sale: Oct. 29 for instant-win, scratch-off tickets and Dec. 14 for tickets for drawing games.
The commission also approved spending up to $30,000 to buy a car for newly hired executive director Ernie Passailaigue, who officially starts July 1 but has already been working to get Arkansas' lottery started.
Two requests for proposals, or RFPs, the commission approved Friday advise potential lottery vendors that the commission wants scratch-off tickets to go on sale on or before Oct. 29 and other tickets to go on sale on or before Dec. 14.
Passailaigue said previously he expected scratch-off tickets to go on sale around Thanksgiving.
"I think that this type of time frame and timeline we have proposed is achievable. It's going to take a lot of work," Passailaigue told the commission, speaking via speaker phone from South Carolina, where he has been director of that state's lottery since 2001.
Passailaigue said he originally planned for the RFPs to be issued next Friday, but that would have meant starting the drawing games close to Christmas, "and that would just be too chaotic."
Ray Thornton, the commission's chairman, said he was pleased with the progress the commission has made.
"I feel that we have set a record in the history of lotteries in adopting two major RFPs before the executive director comes on board and begins to draw a salary," he said.
Thornton also noted that Passailaigue worked on the RFPs without a paid consultant.
"I think it is worth noting by those who might be interested that this has saved us consultant fees which may have ranged between $250,000 and three-quarters of a million dollars," Thornton said. "So Ernie, in a very real sense, by acting in lieu of a consultant on these you have already saved us the amount of your salary for the rest of this year."
The commission raised some eyebrows earlier this month when it set Passailaigue's annual salary at $324,000, making him one of the highest-paid lottery directors in the country. A legislative oversight committee approved the salary.
Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who proposed the constitutional amendment that voters approved last year to create a lottery to fund college scholarships, issued a statement Friday praising the commission for moving quickly.
"This is exciting news for Arkansas students and families," Halter said. "Every day we have a fully operational lottery means another $1 million in ticket sales and another $250,000 in net proceeds for college scholarships."
According to the RFPs, by Oct. 29 the commission expects to employ 90 people and operate three prize payment centers, a headquarters in Little Rock and two district offices.
The RFPs state that the lottery is expected to start with about 2,500 retailers, but that number may grow to up to 5,000 during the seven-year period of a vendor's contract. A vendor will have the option to the renew the contract in one-year increments up to three times.
Instant-win ticket prices are expected to be $1, $2, $3, $5 and $10. Other games that may or may not be offered include Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Mega Millions, Powerball, regional games, international games and monitor games.
Passailaigue has said he does not expect Arkansas to take part in multi-state games until the lottery has been in operation for a few months.
The commission also voted Friday to allocate up to $30,000 for the purchase of a sport utility vehicle, to be selected through a bidding process.
"It's for Passailaigue and his staff," Thornton told reporters after the meeting.
After taking a tour of potential office locations, the commission voted to spend $13,500 to rent temporary office space in Little Rock's River Market district for two months. Thornton said that within the next to months he expects the commission to find a larger space for its permanent headquarters.