Lottery commission votes to pursue monitor games


LITTLE ROCK — The state Lottery Commission voted Wednesday to pursue adding monitor games, a day after a legislative panel said it disapproved of the idea.

In a voice vote, the commission approved a motion to authorize Lottery Director Bishop Woosley and his staff to pursue monitor games but did not state a preference for any particular game or games. Commissioner Dianne Lamberth cast the only vote against the motion.

On Tuesday, the legislative oversight committee on the lottery approved a motion to express “non-support” for the idea of adding lottery monitor games, which allow a player to buy a ticket and view drawing results that are displayed on a screen every four minutes. The vote was not unanimous.

During the Lottery Commission’s discussion of the issue Wednesday, Commissioner Alex Streett said the legislative panel’s vote should be taken into consideration.

“The Legislature created us, the Legislature can abolish us if they they think we’re going too far,” he said.

But Streett also said the commission is charged with providing revenue for college scholarships — revenue that has been declining.

In February, lottery officials revised their forecast of net revenue for the current fiscal year from $89.5 million down to $82.8 million.

Julie Baldridge said it was interesting that some legislators were concerned about “an incremental change” at the lottery but did not appear to be concerned about soaring gambling profits from casino-style gaming at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis.

The commissioners also discussed the question of whether Arkansas’ lottery law permits monitor games. Robbie Wills, a former Arkansas House speaker and current lobbyist who sponsored the 2009 legislation on the lottery, told the commission that the law was intended to allow monitor games.

“My intention as the sponsor of this legislation was to give you all the authority that any other lottery commission in the United States had to implement any game, including monitor games, that you wanted to do,” Wills said. “There was only one exception to that, and that was so-called video lottery terminals. Those are slot machines.”

Legislators specifically discussed the monitor game Keno while the bill was going through the committee process, Wills said.

Lamberth said after the meeting that she believes monitor games are “benign” and are something the lottery needs to offer, but “I think we can build a little more consensus here, to make sure everybody understands what this game is and what it isn’t.”

“It’s just shown on a TV. It isn’t anything that you push buttons and do (like a slot machine),” she said.

Woosley said lottery vendor Scientific Games has offered to reduce the Lottery Commission’s rates and provide monitors free of charge if the commission decides to add the games. Scientific Games owns the rights to a bingo game, but Woosley said it was premature to say what game or games the lottery might choose to offer.

He said his hope is that monitor games could boost annual lottery profits by $4 million to $5 million.

Also Wednesday, University of Arkansas at Little Rock student Candace Stratford, a graduate of Northside High School in Fort Smith, thanked the commission for the lottery-funded scholarship she has used to return to school as a nontraditional student.

“I took the motto when I got the scholarship that a dream delayed is not a future denied. It will really help me in continuing my education for me and my two young daughters,” she said.