Murphy USA Station Sells First Ark. Lottery Ticket

Scratchoff sales begin; Powerball, other state games coming

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas launched its lottery early Monday, selling scratchoff tickets that officials say will raise millions of dollars for college scholarships. The ceremonial first ticket was sold at midnight at a Murphy USA gas station in Little Rock, reported The Pine Bluff Commercial. The ticket was sold to Jim Purcell, director of the state Department of Higher Education.

"I'm pretty excited, and I look forward to great successes in increasing the number of adults with degrees here in Arkansas," Purcell told reporters after buying four $2 scratchoff [image-nocss] tickets.

More than 60 people had lined up in the parking lot of the gas station, said the report. Many said they had been waiting for at least an hour to begin playing the games of chance.

Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue said the station was chosen to sell the ceremonial first ticket to remind the public of a $50 million scholarship program from Murphy Oil that pays the college tuition for the graduates of El Dorado High School.

Arkansas is the 43rd state to sell lottery tickets, the report said. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in November authorizing the games to raise money for college scholarships.

Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, who had championed the constitutional amendment, was among the first to buy a ticket. Halter had first proposed starting a lottery when he briefly ran for governor in 2006.

"We just birthed a lottery," Passailaigue told Halter as he handed the lieutenant governor a cigar.

Passailaigue has predicted the games will gross more than $400 million annually, and lawmakers will decide next year what amounts to set for the scholarships based on the games' revenue.

Officials from colleges and universities throughout the state planned to mark the launch of the lottery at various retails outlets Monday morning, said the report.

Arkansas plans to begin selling Powerball tickets October 31 and will begin selling tickets for its own draw games starting in December, the report added.