LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The legislative Lottery Oversight Committee voted today to recommend a fix for a 2010 law change that Arkansas lottery officials say hampers their ability to maximize ticket sales.
During last year's fiscal session, the Legislature changed the state lottery law to add unclaimed prize money to net profits.
Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue said after the session that the change meant the lottery could not use some of the unclaimed money on efforts to boost prizes and sales in response to market trends, as originally planned, and sales would suffer as a result. He said did not notice the change while it was passing through the Legislature.
The oversight committee voted Wednesday to recommend changing the law to state that the lottery can spend up to $2.5 million of unclaimed prize money during a fiscal year on prize promotion, maintaining game reserves at a fiscally sound level and increasing the pool for future lottery prizes.
The proposal will be included in legislation to be filed later in the current session.
Also today, Rep. Tracy Steele, D-North Little Rock, told the committee he was concerned that of the 3,300 students at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, only 150 have received lottery-funded scholarships. He said 97 percent of UAPB students receive some form of financial aid, so clearly there is financial need at the university.
Steele also said more lottery tickets are sold in Jefferson County than in any other county except Pulaski and Union.
"Jefferson County is supporting the scholarships financially, but if you look at the students at the university, they're not receiving the benefits. Something is wrong with that picture, and that's a serious issue that needs to be addressed," he said.
Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, suggested that a forum could be held on the campus to educate students about the lottery.
The committee asked Shane Broadway, deputy director of the state Department of Higher Education, to gather information that would explain why so few UAPB students are receiving scholarships.
The committee also reviewed a report from the Division of Legislative Audit on actions that lottery officials have taken to address problems identified in an audit of the lottery last year. Those problems included a failure to prepare an annual financial report in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, approval of contracts without a review by the oversight committee and improperly documented travel reimbursement requests, among other things.
"The agency appears to have made significant improvement in most areas," legislative auditor Andy Babbitt told the committee. "We believe as the agency moves forward, policy and procedures that are currently being placed into operation should assist in preventing these issues from arising again."
The panel also heard a report from Passailaigue, who said the lottery is on track to net $101 million for college scholarships this fiscal year.