Arkansas lottery commission approves monitor games

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Lottery Commission on Wednesday voted to start the process of implementing monitor-style games in which players can watch drawings every four minutes.

The proposal drew criticism Tuesday from some House and Senate members during a meeting of the Legislative Lottery Oversight Committee. One commissioner, Dianne Lamberth, voted against starting the monitor games, saying she would have preferred seeking a consensus among legislators before going forward.

The commission has asked lottery Director Bishop Woosley to suggest ways the lottery can reverse a trend of declining revenues. Net proceeds are down by $7.7 million, or 12.2 percent, for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Two months ago, the commission revised its budget down from a projection of $90.2 million it thought would be available for college scholarships to $82.7 million.

Revenues have fallen because ticket sales are lower as interest declines after five years of lottery operation. But revenues have met the lowered expectations over the past couple of months.

"We hit that pretty well," Woosley said.

Some legislators on Tuesday questioned whether the lottery has the authority to decide whether to start using monitor games, which could feature games such as Keno or Bingo.

Former House Speaker Robbie Wills, who sponsored the lottery legislation in 2009 after voters approved a proposal to start the games, told commissioners that it was the intent of the Legislature to allow monitor games.

"The word Keno was used in committee in 2009," Wills said.

Monitor games are distinct from video lottery terminals, which are interactive. Wills called the VLTs "slot machines."

Woosley said the lottery has a contract with a vendor to provide monitors and that it already has the infrastructure to install them, though the agency would need new software to run the games. He told legislators Tuesday that the monitor games can be installed in restaurants and taverns, where patrons can play for 20 or 30 minutes, though they can also be installed at retail outlets.

According to lottery research, about one-third of Arkansans don't play the lottery. Woosley said the monitor games could attract people who are disinclined to buy lottery tickets at gas stations.

Commissioner Mark Scott said he believes the monitor games will help the lottery "stay relevant" among players.

Lamberth said she believes the monitor games could be "a game changer" for the lottery's revenue picture. The measure passed, 7-1.

The panel also approved a measure to lift a ban on advertising with universities in the state.

Woosley argued for the change, saying sales could increase by working out a deal with the University of Arkansas for Razorback-themed instant ticket games. Numerous other state lotteries have similar agreements. He also said advertising during athletic events would provide the opportunity to stress that the lottery funds college scholarships.


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