Arkansas a step closer to cashing in on the lottery

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- For the past several months the Arkansas Legislature has been working on the structure of the lottery.     Now that Governor Mike Beebe has signed the bills from the Senate and the House into law, people in Region 8 want to know when they can start buying lottery tickets.

Senator Paul Bookout was one of several state senators and representatives who worked on this legislation.  They laid the groundwork for the lottery, how it will actually work will be up to another group.

"We set up the structure and we set up the scholarships.  We are leaving a lot of that to be determined by the commission," said Bookout.

According to the law, all decisions about the lottery will be made by the Arkansas Lottery Commission.

So far three out of nine members have been selected including former ASU President Ray Thornton.

"There's a lot of homework to do before you start selling tickets.  The commission has to meet and organize," said Thornton.

One thing that has not been decided is what games will be played.  That decision, as well as where and how the games will be played, will be made by the commission.

"Each day that we don't get that going it's costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money," said Bookout.

Senator Bookout said the legislature has decided that the money the lottery brings in will used to revamp the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship.  The number of new scholarships and the amount will be determined by how much the lottery brings in.  Bookout said if the Lottery brings in $50 to $60 million dollars in the first year that could mean the number of scholarships given out could increase by the thousands.

"The lottery scholarships will do a lot to help many people in Arkansas who otherwise could not go to school," said Thornton.

So when will Region 8 start cashing in?

"We hope that by the fall of this year that we can have the lottery up and running," said Bookout.

But that will also be determined by the commission, who will hit the ground running as soon as all of the members are selected.

The next six members will be selected within the next week.  Three have already been selected by Senate president pro tempore Bob Johnson.  They are Ray Thornton, Patty Shipp, and Derrick Smith.

Three members of the commission will be selected by the governor and the other three will be selected
by Robbie Wills, the Speaker of the House.