Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter issued the following statement on Monday morning, hours after the first instant (scratch-off) tickets went on sale.
"Today culminates the end of a three-year effort to bring a Scholarship Lottery to Arkansas. More important, today marks the beginning of a significant new funding source for college scholarships in a state that ranks 49th nationally in the percentage of adults who have a bachelor’s degree.
Tens of thousands of graduating high school seniors, as well as non-traditional adult students, will soon have an opportunity to pursue a higher education on lottery-funded scholarships awarded solely on merit and without regard to family income. The Arkansas Department of Higher Education expects to start accepting applications in January for lottery-funded scholarships to any accredited 2-year or 4-year, public or private college and university in Arkansas.
As part of my campaign for Lieutenant Governor in 2006, I made a commitment to provide Arkansas voters the opportunity for a yes-or-no vote on a constitutional amendment authorizing a state lottery with all net proceeds dedicated to college scholarships. Thanks largely to the philanthropy of the John Bailey family, a ballot-issue campaign titled HOPE for Arkansas succeeded in qualifying the Scholarship Lottery Amendment for the November 2008 General Election. Arkansas voters approved the amendment by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
Today, Arkansans are purchasing lottery tickets at retail locations on our side of the border rather than across the state line in Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Everyone hopes to scratch off a prize but even those who don’t will know that the tickets they buy will help build a scholarship program for Arkansas citizens. Net proceeds from the Scholarship Lottery should triple the amount of state-funded scholarships available annually for Arkansas students and families.
Over time, I am confident that this new Scholarship Lottery Program will significantly expand job opportunities and raise incomes in Arkansas. The link between a higher education and a higher per capita income is an undeniable fact. I look forward to a time when all Arkansans who work hard and play by the rules will have the opportunity for a higher education. Today’s launch of the Scholarship Lottery puts us one step closer to achieving that dream."