Arkansas lawmakers OK extending lottery's contract, but without majority of panel present

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Arkansas lawmakers on Thursday approved extending the state lottery's contract with its vendor for draw games through the fall of 2019, but a member of panel questions whether the vote was valid.

The Arkansas Lottery Commission Legislative Oversight Committee completed its review of the games' contract with Greece-based Intralot, Inc., extending its agreement through Aug. 14, 2019. The new contract lowers the amount the games pay to the vendor from 2.45 percent of net ticket sales to 2.165 percent, a move Lottery Director Bishop Woosley says will save nearly $5 million.

Before the vote, Sen. Jimmy Hickey, a member of the panel and vocal lottery critic, called for delaying its consideration so the lottery could look at potential changes, including whether a one-time $100,000 allowance from Intralot to pay for the games' marketing could instead go toward college scholarships.

The oversight committee had briefly recessed because Hickey noted that it didn't have a majority of its 11 members present. Shortly after reconvening, the panel approved the contract with only three members present; Hickey was not among them.

Hickey, R-Texarkana, said he was asking legislative staff whether the vote was valid, since a quorum wasn't present.

"I don't think it was appropriate, especially with everything that had transpired prior to that," said Hickey, who has proposed abolishing the lottery commission and putting the games' operations under the state Department of Higher Education.

House and Senate rules say committees can't transact business without a quorum present, and that members can request a "quorum call" to verify that at least a majority of a committee is present.

Rep. Mark Perry, the panel's co-chairman, said he believed the vote was valid since more than a majority of the committee was present when it began discussing the contract.

"It happens all the time, committee members step out," Perry, D-Jacksonville, said after the meeting. "As long as we don't have a quorum call, it does pass. It's a big savings for the lottery, hopefully it'll add to the amount for scholarships. I feel it's a win-win."

Arkansas voters approved the lottery in 2008 to raise money for college scholarships, and the state began selling tickets the following year.


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