Nine months ago, Arkansas voters approved a state-wide lottery. Seven weeks from now on September 28, scratch-off tickets will go on sale. If you think that’s a quick turnaround time, you’re right. In fact, it’s a world record, according to state lottery director Ernie Passailaigue.
But setting records is not what’s important to Passailaigue, who was in Fayetteville yesterday speaking to the Political Animals Club of NWA. It’s the scholarship money Arkansas is losing every day that keeps him up at night.
$1 million in sales is lost every 24 hours that the lottery is not running, he says. According to projections, that’s the equivalent of $250,000 in college scholarships a day or 50 students a year that won’t receive $5000 in student aid.
“That troubles me. It irritates me. And I can see it in the faces of families in Arkansas,” he said.
In his presentation, Passailaigue addressed a number of other issues that come up when discussing lotteries.
First, he noted that marketing efforts would be very low-key. “I don’t want you to see a lottery ad replicated in a newspaper. I don’t want you to go down the highway and see billboard after billboard and I don’t want you to see lottery ads on TV or the radio,” he said.
He also stressed that playing the lottery is solely for fun and entertainment. “You won’t see ads with money falling from the sky. If you play the lottery to change your financial status in life, you’re mistaken,” he said.
In terms of the argument that the lottery business hurts low-income people, Passailaigue says that won’t be the case here. “The quilt of the Arkansas lottery will look like the quilt of Arkansas,” he said. In fact, in South Carolina, where Passailaigue was lottery chief before being hired here, studies showed that people with incomes under $25,000 were the least likely to play.
“We’ll be the most scrutinized business in Arkansas,” said Passailaigue. But such scrutiny isn’t unwarranted, he says. “The only reason the lottery exists, is to provide scholarship money for young people.”
Ozarks Unbound has more.
Make sure to check out Christopher Spencer’s coverage at Ozarks Unbound. Chris has a story, raw audio and a video interview with Arkansas lottery chief Ernie Passailaigue.