LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Murphy USA retail outlet in Magnolia on Wednesday received the first license issued in the state to sell tickets for Arkansas' scholarship lottery when scratch-off games begin next month.
Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue presented the ceremonial first retailer license to Murphy Oil President Hank Heithaus during a meeting of the Arkansas Lottery Commission.
Steve Beck, regional director for Intralot, the firm hired to run the lottery's drawing games, told commissioners the installation of lottery equipment could begin next week, as soon as retail outlets have signed contracts.
Passailaigue said more than 1,200 retail outlets have applied for licenses to sell tickets and the goal is to have as many as 1,500 licensed by Sept. 28, the day instant-win ticket sales are set to begin, with Powerball to follow Oct. 31.
He said more than 400 contracts have been mailed out to prospective retail outlets, while hundreds of others are still waiting on financial inspections by the state Department of Finance and Administration and criminal background checks by the FBI.
Along with the Magnolia store, lottery tickets will be sold at the El Dorado-based Murphy Oil's other 56 Murphy USA outlets across the state, Heithaus said.
"This is a perfect ... a homegrown company providing scholarships," Passailaigue said, noting Murphy Oil in 2007 created the El Dorado Promise scholarship program with a $50 million commitment.
Commission Chairman Ray Thornton, who said he was a friend of the late Murphy Oil founder Charles H. Murphy, also noted that the winner of a $259.9 million Powerball jackpot Tuesday purchased the ticket at a Murphy Oil outlet in Charleston, S.C.
"In my opinion, we've hit the Powerball jackpot with Murphy Oil," Thornton said.
Heithaus told reporters later that lottery ticket sales would benefit Arkansas' lottery for college scholarships and at the same time make the company's retail outlets something of a destination for customers.
"The lottery is a good thing for the state and we want to support it," he said.
Passailaigue told the commission scratch-off games will start out simple with $1, $2 and $5 tickets. Eventually a $10 ticket will be added. Within a year, they hope to have 30 or more different kids of scratch off games available, he said.
Also Wednesday, Ernestine Middleton, the lottery's director of internal operations, said she was in Jonesboro and Springdale recently scouting locations for possible regional claim centers, where people can go to cash their lottery tickets if they win more than $500.
Middleton said she would be in South Arkansas — El Dorado, Warren and Camden — next week to look for possible regional center sites.
The Little Rock claim site will be located at the Lottery Commission's main office downtown.
The commission is scheduled to meet Sept. 2 to interview seven candidates to be the lottery's internal auditor.