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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Arkansas lottery scales back budget projections

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News,Business,Arkansas,Budgets and Deficits

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Lottery Commission has lowered its budget projections for money raised for scholarships by $3 million.

The commission unanimously approved a revised budget Wednesday, reducing that projection to $78.2 million, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1q2l45G ). Lottery officials think fiscal 2015 will be the lowest amount of money raised for scholarships since the lottery started selling tickets in September 2009.

The amount raised for scholarships peaked in fiscal 2012 at $97.5 million, but they dropped to $90.2 million the next year and to $81.4 million in fiscal 2014.

Commission members also lowered its ticket revenue projection by $12.5 million. The commission estimated ticket revenues will now be around $416.8 million.

The new budget does not mention electronic monitor games. A state legislative committee halted the lottery's implementation of the games in April. Despite the committee's vote, the commission told its staff members to move forward with rolling out the games.

In a July special session, the Legislature issued a moratorium on the games until March 13, which would give lawmakers time to weigh in on them during the next legislative session.

Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said he wanted to present the commission with a budget that did not rely on electronic game revenue because it's unclear what lawmakers will decide to do about the games.

"It is unknown if that will be brought up or even be an issue in the next session," Woosley said. "And so we had to revise the budget based on that game not being available. ... Ultimately what we decided to do was just to pull all of the revenues, all of the sales, all of the commissions, everything related to monitor games out of the budget and just leave it at that."

The commission also voted Wednesday to close three regional claim centers, which will save the lottery $381,000.

Woosley said closing the centers was not tied to the declining ticket sales.

"They just did not make financial sense to keep open," he said.

A center in Springdale will close Oct. 1, and centers in Camden and Jonesboro will follow on Nov. 30. Each closure is set for when the centers' leases expire.

Six jobs will be lost, but Woosley said the workers could seek other employment within the agency.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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