LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — For the Arkansas lottery to increase revenue from year to year, the lottery's director told commissioners Wednesday that they will have to approve the use of ticket-vending machines.
Director Ernie Passailaigue said businesses are seeking ways to cut labor costs, and automating the lottery is an important way to boost sales and help vendors save money.
"This is the future of lottery," Passailaigue said.
A handout picture of one of the machines shows an array of ticket choices -- from Powerball to $1 scratch tickets -- and a banner across the bottom that says "HOPE for Arkansas!"
From its Sept. 28 start through April 30, the lottery had $308 million in ticket sales. Passailaigue said sales are ahead of projections and the state will meet its goal of awarding 28,000 college scholarships.
Those ticket sales represent millions of transactions handled by clerks. Many large stores won't sell lottery tickets themselves, but are amenable to have a machine do the work. Customers can redeem winning tickets with a cashier or clerk.
Also, the lottery has reached most of the state, with about 2,000 outlets, mainly in convenience stores across Arkansas.
The machines are suitable for airports and other high-traffic areas, Passailaigue said. Busy convenience stores could shift to automated sales to save labor.
Passailaigue said the lottery can increase sales each year by 2.5 percent to 5 percent, but that'll require the vending machines.
"You're not going to have a lottery in five to seven years" without the machines, he said.
Arkansas Family Council spokesman Jerry Cox, a lottery opponent, said he was puzzled by Passailaigue's claim about the machines' importance.
"He's exaggerating," Cox said after the meeting. "He (Passailaigue) has already said the lottery is exceeding expectations. And he turns around and says we're going out of business if we don't have lottery-vending machines."
Cox has asked the legislature's Lottery Oversight Committee to study the machines' effect on underage and compulsive gambling. Legislators could vote to ban the machines in the session that begins in January.
Passailaigue said at the meeting that more than 30 states use the machines and critics of the automated sales are operating with "erroneous information."
Commissioners didn't offer their views on the machines.
The 100 ticket-vending machines are being tested in a lottery warehouse, Passailaigue said, after which they could be rolled out. But on Wednesday he didn't give a projected date for a rollout. The lottery's initial contract with Intralot Inc. included those vending machines.
Passailaigue said the machines will require gamblers to swipe a driver's license as proof of age. The machines don't redeem winning tickets, which have to be taken to a clerk, who will require identification, for redemption.
Cox said he believes the machines could lead to underage gambling. Passailaigue said the risk of that is no greater with the machines. He noted that a clerk could be fooled by fake identification, but the machine wouldn't.
Passailaigue noted that 42,000 people have applied for the 28,000 scholarships.
Commission members elected Dianne Lamberth of Batesville as the panel's new chairman. Former U.S. Rep. Ray Thornton spent a year in the position and resigned effective last week.