|Updated: 5/21/2012 8:50 pm
||Published: 5/21/2012 8:47 pm
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Lottery Commission plans to ask the Legislature to grant the agency police power in order to enforce lottery-related laws.
Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said Monday the details of the idea are still being worked out. If approved, lottery officers would be able to investigate criminal allegations, make arrests and provide information to prosecutors for filing charges.
Woosley said it would be similar to the enforcement divisions of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas Forestry Commission.
Lottery Commissioner Bruce Engstrom wondered aloud during Monday's meeting whether it would be worth the expense to train officers and have them certified. Commissioner Smokey Campbell replied that having specialized agents who can step in could prevent months of bad publicity.
Woosley said some crimes involving the lottery are committed in communities with only one or two police officers, and investigating a lottery problem can be a burden on a small agency.
"It's kind of a complicated, specialized area," Woosley said.
The Legislative Lottery Oversight Committee meets on June 16. That committee's legislative staffer, Patrick Ralston, suggested that the commission move quickly, as the panel is expected to overhaul regulations for administering college scholarships that are funded by lottery proceeds.
The commission is also interested in allowing debit cards to be used for lottery ticket purchases. At present, all Arkansas lottery tickets must be paid for with cash.
The commission also approved its budget for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1. The panel anticipates profits of about $98 million, which is in line with this fiscal year's expected profit.
Included in the budget is an additional $250,000 for promotions paid for from unclaimed prizes. Woosley said the money could be used for free tickets to draw attention to a new game or boost sales of one that is lagging. The lottery projects sales of almost $400 million worth of scratch-off tickets and $84 million in numbers games next fiscal year.
Arkansas has the highest proportion of instant ticket sales of any state, and the lottery has been working to boost sales of draw games, such as Powerball and Mega Millions. This year's record Mega Millions jackpot boosted sales for a time, but increasing Powerball ticket prices to $2 hasn't created the big jackpots that were expected. Powerball is designed to build jackpots more quickly, but people have been winning the top prizes before jackpots can climb into the hundreds of millions of dollars, a level that can drive record sales.
Woosley said the advertising staff plans to change marketing techniques to better target lottery players, including increasing advertising at gas pumps at stores that sell tickets.
The commission also agreed Monday to a job description for a new internal auditor and to advertise that position. Mike Hyde abruptly resigned as auditor earlier this month after a dispute over an audit of a contract with instant ticket vendor Scientific Games.
Commissioners also elected Ben Pickard as the panel's new chairman, replacing Dianne Lamberth, who served two years.
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