The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery's director of sales was given a choice Monday — resignation or termination.
Lottery Director Bishop Woosley confirmed Monday that Robert Stebbins, who has been with the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery as the group's director of sales since its start, is no longer working for the program.
Woosley said early Monday night that Stebbins was told he'd be fired if he didn't quit, but Woosley said he doesn't know which option Stebbins will take.
There was no answer at a phone number listed under Stebbins' name Monday.
Although ticket sales climbed after its 2009 launch, revenues and scholarship proceeds have dropped each of the past three years.
As lottery officials looked for ways to reverse the sales trends, legislators cut the size of the scholarships for new recipients and stiffened the minimum qualifications for receiving the awards.
Asked whether Stebbins was ousted because of the weak ticket sales, Woosley said his office doesn't comment on personnel matters.
"I'll have to wait until he makes a decision on whether he resigns or not to answer that," Woosley said.
If Stebbins is terminated, then personnel records relating to his dismissal — if they exist — are releasable under the state's Freedom of Information Act.
Stebbins took the job in July 2009. Before taking the job, he was a senior vice president and director of marketing for Metropolitan National Bank. Stebbins' salary was $98,187.23 a year, Woosley said.
The lottery, which was created to fund scholarships for Arkansas students, has helped finance more than 30,000 scholarships every year.
It was created during former Democrat governor Mike Beebe's first term in office and first started selling tickets in September 2009 and raised $82.7 million in scholarships in fiscal 2010.
Scholarship proceeds reached $94.2 million in fiscal 2011 and peaked at $97.5 million in 2012 before falling to $90.3 million in 2013 and $81.4 million in 2014.
Despite a 3 percent uptick in sales of scratch-off tickets to $306.6 million in the first 11 months of this fiscal year, which ends today, draw games such as Powerball and Mega Millions have declined by $14 million from the same period last year— nearly 17.1 percent — to $68.1 million.
Woosley told lawmakers earlier this month that he expects the lottery will end the year with about $74.3 million in scholarship proceeds, several million short of its hoped projection of $78.1 million.
In February, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Act 218, by Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, which dissolved the Lottery Commission and folded the lottery into the state Department of Finance and Administration.
The law also created a lottery oversight committee, with Hickey as its co-chairman, tasked with improving the lottery's performance.
Hickey said Monday that he was not aware that Stebbins was no longer working with the lottery nor would he speculate as to what prompted the move.
This past legislative session yielded other lottery-related laws, including one that cut the amount of money the group was spending, as well as a law changing the sizes of scholarships that would be given to eligible students.
To increase ticket sales, the Arkansas Lottery has added Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as a retailer and is also changing its advertising techniques.
Lottery officials plan to hire an outside consultant to help them develop a comprehensive business plan; a decision is expected as early as August.
Woosley said that Stebbins' replacement has been picked and that the new leader of lottery sales, Mitch Chandler, would start work today.
Woosley had no details about Chandler but said he was hired from outside the lottery.