Another look at lottery offices

opinion by Maylon Rice

Editor’s note: Maylon Rice has 40 years of experience working as a newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several Arkansas newspapers. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.

Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.

Lottery ticket sales improved during the recent fiscal year in Arkansas Lottery satellite offices in Springdale, Jonesboro and Camden, but it is still a losing business proposition to have three separate, free standing offices with two full time employees.

As our political candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor are squawking about “running government like a business,” the Arkansas Lottery Commission, under its own authority is throwing away good money which could be used for more scholarships for Arkansas kids, at a losing proposition each and every day with these satellite offices.

Two full time employees in Springdale, Jonesboro and Camden, equal 80 hours of potential hourly work time each week. Multiply that by 51 weeks a year, (given state and federal holidays, vacation and sick days) but that comes to a nice round potential 4,080 hours of paid time on the Lottery Payroll system each year for the Redemption and Sales Centers in Springdale, Jonesboro and Camden.

Hang on to your hats you fiscal conservatives.

The Springdale office in fiscal year 2013 (July 2012 to June 2013), sold $4.68 worth of tickets per hour, or about $38 worth of lottery tickets every day it was open. The Jonesboro office, with only 11 months in that same fiscal year, sold $6.65 worth of tickets per hour, or $53 per day; Camden, also with only 11 months to record, sold the least, $1.77 worth of tickets per hour or $15 in the eight hour work day.

It did get better this past fiscal year, which closed June 30, 2014.

Springdale’s operations sold an average of $11.61 of tickets per hour or almost $93 worth in a day. The office workers there made these sales while cutting an average of 2.3 checks per day for big winners. Not a bad gig.

The Jonesboro office upped its hourly sale to $8.25 an hour or almost $67 a day, while the Camden office improved to $3.49 per hour or a daily average of $28 a day. Jonesboro averages cutting 3.5 checks per day this past year, while Camden only averages handing out 2.1 checks to winners each working day.

During fiscal year 2014, (but only the last five months, February-June), the three people at the Little Rock office got busy selling tickets over the counter like their rural counterparts the previous fiscal year. Little Rock’s Lottery Redemption Center sold an average of $21.25 per hour or $170 a day – but mind you there was an extra pair of hands. With three people working 40 hours a week for five months that’s 1,600 hours as they cut almost a 24 checks every day.

Sources close to the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Commission say they are looking at ways to perhaps keep this less than business like operations in Springdale, Jonesboro and Camden going just another year and phase it out.

Perhaps the Commission will NOT sign new five year lease deals like the former South Carolina Senator and Lottery Guru Ernie Passailaigue did at the outset of these games.
The Lottery Commission is struggling with declining revenues. The closure of these offices, laying off the employees (a grand total of six, plus 3 in Little Rock) and possibly advertising for bids for someone else – looks like a no brainer.

The Commission should search for a bank, savings and loan, county office, city office, or even another state agency to become a Lottery Redemption Center out in the hinterlands of Arkansas. Or maybe not. Why not just close the offices.

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Something has got to give on this Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Regional Redemption Office fiasco. Hurry, Lottery Commission members. Close those offices and do it quick.

The Arkansas Legislature meets in less than seven months, and somebody seeing all this waste of money is going to do something about it if you don’t.

And that’s a safer bet than a $1 scratch-off ticket.

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