The Arkansas Lottery issued a news release today touting the gambling enterprise’s 10th anniversary and the money it has contributed to college scholarships.

The release notes the prizes won by gamblers since 2009  — $2.9 billion — and $889 million in scholarship funding. It doesn’t include a gross figure for the amount of money gambled, but it’s half again more than the amount paid out.


From the news release:

Jalease Lofton is a scholarship recipient and STEM major at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. Receiving the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship helps Jalease pay for books and tuition, while keeping her motivated.


“One day I’m going to be a statistics teacher,” said Jalease. “I want to be a role model for other women around the world.”

A statistics role model might warn others away from the lottery.


Take the year ending June 30, 2018, the most recent posted on the lottery website. The lottery did just under $500 million in ticket sales and paid $342 million in prizes. Put it another way: For every dollar spent on a lottery ticket, a gambler got 68 cents back.

The lottery cleared about $91 million that year, against $82 million in its first full year of operation. (That number rose to $98 million in the year ending, June 30 this year. I erred in reporting the 2018 numbers as this year’s numbers in the original post.) It will be interesting to see how the growth of casino gambling in Arkansas affects the numbers. Slot machines typically pay off in the 90 percent-plus range and some table games, if played carefully, come close to even-money wagers. (Close, not equal.)


More than 500,000 students have received scholarships averaging payments of about $1,800 each.  State Higher Education Department figures show that the money goes disproportionately to white, higher-income high school graduates thanks to toughened qualification requirements based on standardized test scores. Awards also favor returning students over first-year students, those most often in need of a boost to pursue college.

There are winners besides scholarship recipients. The website carries this financial summary of payments made by the Arkansas lottery as recorded by the Department of Finance and Administration. CORRECTION: Bishop Woosley, director of the lottery, tells me this is the sum of multiple years of payments, not a one-year report as I indicated originally. The figures reflect totals paid over the lifetime of contracts with each vendor: