The Arkansas Senate on Monday approved legislation giving retailers the option to accept debit cards for the purchase of lottery tickets.
State law now limits lottery retailers to accepting only cash for ticket purchases.
The Senate voted 23-6 to send Senate Bill 617 by Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, to the House for further consideration.
Under SB617, a retailer may choose whether to accept cash and "noncash, noncredit methods of payment, including ... debit cards or other electronic transfer of funds of the consumer to the retailer."
The bill bars buying tickets with in-store credit, credit cards, charge cards or any form of deferred payment.
Sen. Kent Ingram, D-West Memphis, said he's received a few calls from merchants worried that the fees they are charged for debit card transactions will be more than what they make on their lottery ticket sales.
Garner replied that there is no requirement that retailers accept credit cards under his bill, and that lottery retailers could require a minimum purchase of lottery tickets to accept a debit card.
Murphy Oil USA, Kum & Go and Gov. Asa Hutchinson are among the supporters of the legislation, he said.
Thirty-nine states with lotteries, plus Puerto Rico, allow the use of debit cards to buy tickets, while Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wyoming and Arkansas don't, according to lottery Director Bishop Woosley.
The lottery has more than 1,900 retailers that sell tickets. The companies selling at the most locations are EZ Mart Inc. at 87 locations, Murphy Oil USA Inc. at 68 locations, Tobacco Superstore Inc. at 51 locations, Kroger Limited Partnership at 51 locations and Kum & Go LLC at 48 locations according to the lottery.
The lottery has no projection on the potential revenue gains from the bill, according to Woosley.
Arkansas started selling lottery tickets on Sept. 28, 2009. Lottery revenue has helped pay for more than 30,000 Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships during each of the past seven fiscal years. Those scholarships also are financed with $20 million a year in general revenue and a $20 million lottery reserve fund.
The lottery's revenue and net proceeds for scholarships peaked in fiscal 2012 before declining for three consecutive fiscal years. They rebounded in the fiscal year that ended June 30 with the help of a world-record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot in January 2016.