The Arkansas lottery set a record for ticket sales in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, and will generate almost $92 million for college scholarships.

When the Arkansas Higher Education Department awards Academic Challenge Scholarships in the fall, the number of scholarships provided by lottery ticket sales will exceed 300,000.

Since Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment to establish a state lottery, $781 million has been generated for the scholarship program.

The lottery first began selling tickets in September of 2009. At the end of June, there were 1,926 retailers in Arkansas selling lottery tickets.

The funding for scholarships was generated by almost $500 million in ticket sales. The actual amount of $499,704,976 was a record for the Arkansas lottery.

Instant ticket sales, such as scratch-offs, were a record total of $407.6 million for the fiscal year. That is a record for instant tickets.

Sales of tickets for draw games, such as Powerball and Mega Millions, were $92.1 million. That is the second highest. The record was set in 2016, when sales spiked because of widespread interest in a Powerball prize of more than $1 billion.

The lottery paid $342 million in prizes, also a record amount for Arkansas. It was $27 million more than the amount paid to winners in 2012, the year with the second-highest payout in prizes.

Since it began, the lottery has sold about $3.9 billion in tickets and paid out more than $2.6 billion in prizes. Retailers that sell lottery tickets have made $224 million in commissions.

Last year prizes made up 67.9 percent of the lottery’s distribution of revenue. Scholarships were 19 percent, commissions to retailers was 5.6 percent, gaming costs was 4.2 percent and sales and administration was 3.2 percent.

The lottery began a new branding campaign in March, entitled “This Is Winning,” to highlight the various types of games and prizes. It includes 30-second television spots, outdoor ads such as billboards and posters that are placed in retail stores. Also, the promotional campaign has digital advertisements for the lottery on online, such as on social media. The lottery website is more accessible to mobile phones.

The campaign features interviews with lottery winners and scholarship recipients, focusing on winning has changed their lives.

Medical marijuana

The Medical Marijuana Commission announced the five businesses that will get initial licenses to cultivate marijuana. The announcement came very soon after the state Supreme Court lifted an injunction, issued by a lower court, which had held up the process of awarding licenses.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana and creating the commission to regulate cultivation and retail sales. Five companies were selected from the 98 applicants. One of the unsuccessful applicants filed a legal challenge that brought the process to a halt when a circuit judge ruled that there were flaws in the selection process.

The commission also must award licenses to 32 dispensaries, and has received 230 applications. So far, the health department has issued more than 5,500 cards to patients certifying that they have one of the 18 qualifying conditions that will allow them to purchase medical marijuana.

Observers expect further legal challenges.

If you have any questions or comments about legislative issues, contact me at terry.rice@senate.ar.gov or call me at (479) 650-9712.