By Randy Ray

The Arkansas State Lottery, or as it’s also known, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, sells several different kinds of lotto tickets, including:

  • Cash 3
  • Cash 4
  • Fast Play
  • Lucky for Life
  • Mega Millions
  • Natural State Jackpot
  • Powerball

You can also buy any of a continually changing assortment of instant (scratch-and-win) games in Arkansas.

The state of Arkansas participates in the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL).

The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery started raising money for scholarships in 2009 and has since funded over $1 billion scholarships for over half a million students. The lottery has also paid out over $3 billion in winnings to players. Retailers have earned almost $300 million in commissions, and the lottery has also paid nearly $150 million in taxes.

In most states, the amount of money generated by the lottery just gets added to the state budget. Still, in Arkansas, these funds are specifically allocated to grants and scholarships for Arkansas students. These scholarships fund both public and private educations at both 2-year and 4-year colleges.

This page provides detailed coverage of how to play the games available from the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. If you want to know the specific details regarding buying lottery tickets and claiming prizes, you’ll find those details here, too. The page concludes with the history of the Arkansas lottery and answers to common questions.

Payback Percentages for Arkansas Lottery Games

Gamblers and mathematicians who specialize in probability measure a gambling game’s ROI using a number called the “payback percentage.” This is the same concept as “return to player.” It’s a probability-drive project of how much of each bet you’ll get returned to you in the form of winnings.

Here’s an example:

If you buy $1000 worth of lottery tickets for a lottery game with a payback percentage of 50%, you’ll win $500. You’ve also lost $500.

Keep in mind that this a prediction based on long-term probabilities. In the short term, anything can happen in a random game.

The longer you play, and the more tickets you buy, the closer your actual results will eventually get to the results predicted by the payback percentage.

Lotteries are designed to win money from the players. That’s how Arkansas funds these scholarships. That’s why the payback percentage for all these games is less than 100%.

Calculating the payback percentage requires you to multiply the amount of each prize by the likelihood of winning that prize. Add the return for all the prizes together, and you get the total payback percentage for the game.

How to Play Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Games and Draw Schedules

Below you’ll find the specifics for how to play each Arkansas Scholarship Lottery game, including payback percentage information where possible:

Cash 3

Cash 3 is a traditional draw where you pick 3 numbers between 0 and 9. That means you have 1000 possible results, from 000 to 999.

Cash 3 drawings happen twice a day Monday through Saturday, at 12:59pm and again at 6:59pm. On Sundays, the evening drawing at 6:59pm is the only drawing.

The default cost for a Cash 3 ticket is $1, but you can play for just 50 cents if you choose that amount on the play ticket. You can buy multiple tickets using the same numbers for as many as 14 drawings.

You also get to choose from the following playing options:

  • STR wins if you match the exact numbers drawn in the correct order.
  • BOX wins if you match the exact numbers, even if they’re in a different order.
  • STR/BOX is a combination of the previous 2 options for 50 cents each.
  • COMBO is a STR play for every potential combination of your 3 numbers.
  • The default option is STR. If you want another option, you must mark it on your ticket.

The payback percentage for Cash 3 is 50%. That’s standard for most of these “pick 3” draw games.

Cash 4

You can often tell a lot about a lottery game by the numeral that’s included in the name of the game. In the case of Cash 4, you should understand right away that it’s a game where you choose 4 numbers.

Cash 4 is much like the Cash 3 game. You’re still choosing single digits, but instead of choosing just 3, you choose 4. So the possible options run the gamut from 0000, 0001, 0002, all the way up to 9999. You have 10,000 possible combinations instead of just 1000.

It costs either 50 cents or $1 to play, and you’re allowed to play your numbers in multiple drawings. You just pay for each drawing. You can choose your own numbers or use a quick pick. The odds are the same either way.

You have the same play options as you’d have in the Cash 3 game – STR, BOX, STR/BOX, etc. See the previous section for details about how each of these options works.

The prize for a winning $1 bet is $5000, giving Cash 4 the same payback percentage as Cash 3 – 50%. The calculation for that is easy. You have 10,000 possible tickets, and if you bought all of them, you’d spend $10,000.

A $5000 prize represents a payback percentage of 50%.

The Arkansas Cash 4 drawings are held Monday through Saturday at 12:59pm and every night (with no exceptions) at 6:59pm.

Fast Play

A “fast play” game is like a scratch and win ticket that you’re not required to scratch. This makes the results nearly instant. At any given time, the Arkansas lottery offers half a dozen different games. You just buy the tickets and find out your winnings at the automated lottery terminal.

These games often have seasonal themes. For example, during November and December, you can buy fast play tickets for games with names like “Candy Cane Cash” and “Holiday Cash.”

In terms of what the games look like, they resemble slot machines. You have pay lines and symbols, but they appear on your paper ticket instead of appearing on a screen. You win by matching multiple symbols on the pay lines, much like if you were playing a slot machine.

The crown jewel of the fast play games is the AR Progressive Jackpot, which is available year-round. The game has a jackpot that starts at $1000 and grows from there. You can check the current jackpot on the Arkansas lottery website.

You can play for $1, $2, or $5. The payouts are proportional to the amount you play for. The lowest prize, for example, pays off at 1 for 1 odds. If you play for $1, the lowest possible prize is $1, and if you play for $2, it’s $2.

The amount of the jackpot that you’re able to win is also proportional to your ticket price. Buy a $1 ticket and hit the jackpot, and you get 20% of the total jackpot. To get 100% of the total jackpot, you must buy the $5 ticket.

But even though the payouts for the various prizes are proportional, the odds of winning those prizes change based on how much you play for.

Here’s an example:

The odds of winning even money for a $1 or $2 ticket are the same – 1 in 8.57.

But when you play for $5, the odds for winning the even-money payoff go down to 1 in 10.43.

The odds of hitting the jackpot are 1 in 30,000 if you play for $1, but if you play for $2 or $5, the odds improve to 1 in 26,667.67.

The payback percentage for the $1 version of the game starts at 75.67%.

For the $2 version of the game, the payback percentage decreases to 70.75%.

And if you play for the full $5, the payback percentage is 72.47%.

The smartest play is to always stick with the $1 version of the game because it has the highest payback percentage.

Also, keep in mind that as the jackpot grows, so does the game’s payback percentage. When this page was written, the jackpot was up to $13,000, and the payback percentage, if you played for the full $5, would have been 81.47%.

Natural State Jackpot

Most states with the lottery have a big draw game unique to that state. In Arkansas, that game is the Natural State Jackpot.

To play Natural State Jackpot, you start by choosing 5 numbers between 1 and 39. You then pay $1 for the ticket. The drawings happen 6 days a week – every day except Sunday – at 8pm. The starting jackpot is $50,000 and grows by $5000 after every drawing that isn’t won. Once the jackpot hits $150,000, it starts to increase by $10,000 every drawing until it’s hit.

Natural State Jackpot has one of the most straightforward paytables in the lottery:

  • Match 5 out of 5 numbers and win the jackpot (1 in 575,757)
  • Match 4 out of 5 numbers and win $300 (1 in 3387)
  • Match 3 out of 5 numbers and win $7 (1 in 103)
  • Match 2 out of 5 numbers and win $1 (1 in 10)

The payback percentage for the Natural State Jackpot is 34.34% when the jackpot is $50,000, but it increases as the jackpot grows larger.

If the jackpot hits $428,000, the game becomes a break-even game from a probability perspective – the house no longer has an edge.

Every dollar over that amount, the jackpot grows to increases the expected value of the ticket.

Mega Millions and Powerball

Arkansas (and 44 other states) participate in both Mega Millions and Powerball, the 2 heavy-hitters in the multiple-state lottery game.

A ticket for either game costs $2, and they also offer an upgrade for another $1.

The drawings for Mega Millions happen on Tuesday and Friday, while Powerball has its drawings on Wednesday and Saturday.

The Mega Millions jackpot starts at $40 million and increases after each drawing until someone wins. Powerball, on the other hand, starts its jackpot at $20 million, but it also grows in size until it’s won.

The payback percentage for Mega Millions is 18.94%, and the payback percentage for Powerball is 19.48%.

But both those numbers increase as the size of the jackpot increases.

The pay tables and detailed how-to-play information for Mega Millions and Powerball can be found at the links.

Lucky for Life

Ever wanted to play a game where the prize was $1000 a day for the rest of your life?

That’s the premise of Lucky for Life.

Lucky for Life is a draw game with drawings held on Mondays and Thursdays at 9:38pm.

A ticket costs $2. You choose 5 numbers from between 1 and 48 along with a 6th number (the “Lucky Ball”) of between 1 and 18.

Lucky for Life, like Mega Millions and Powerball, is a multi-state game. You can find detailed how-to-play information and pay tables for Lucky for Life at this link.

How to Buy Tickets and Claim Prizes in the Arkansas Lottery

You can buy tickets for the Arkansas Lottery at over 1800 different locations throughout the state. Authorized lottery retailers usually include convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery stores. In Arkansas, popular places for buying lottery tickets include Brookshires, Kroger, Love’s Travel Stops, and Walmart. You can find a searchable database of authorized retailers on the official site.

You must be at least 18 years of age to play the lottery in Arkansas. The official website discourages you from using lottery tickets of any kind as gifts for anyone younger than that.

You can cash in any winning Arkansas lottery ticket of $500 or less at any authorized retailer.

If you’ve won $501 or more, you have 2 options for cashing in – snail mail or the Lottery Claim Center.

You can claim your winnings using snail mail by printing out and completing a claim form from the website. You must include a copy of your photo ID and a signed ticket to cash out via snail mail. The address for that is:

Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Claim Center
PO Box 3838
Little Rock, AR 72203

To cash in your winning ticket at the Lottery Claim Center, you must visit the office at the following address:

124 W. Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

That office is open Monday through Friday from 8am until 4:30pm. The office is closed on state holidays, and you must arrive before 4:15pm to claim your winnings.

The History of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery

Arkansas voters approved the state lottery in November 2008, and the legislature created the Arkansas Lottery Commission to administer the lottery in March 2009. They hired staff in June 2009 and sold the first Arizona lottery tickets on September 28, 2009.

Arkansas funded the lottery with a $2.8 million loan, but the lottery became self-supporting less than 3 weeks later when the Lottery Commission paid off the loan. Less than 3 months later, the Arkansas Lottery had sold over $100 million in tickets.

The Arkansas Lottery started offering Powerball in October 2009.

The instant lottery games in the state are some of the most popular in the country. The Arkansas Lottery ranks 5th in per capita sales for instant lottery games.

How to Contact the Arkansas Lottery

You have multiple options for contacting the Arkansas Lottery. For most people, this means contacting customer service. The easiest way to contact customer service is at the following phone number:

(501) 683-2000

If you’re asking questions about the Points for Prizes program, you can call the toll-free number:

(800) 201-0108

The Club

Like many state lotteries, Arkansas has created a players club program for its players. This works much like the slots clubs at casinos do – you earn points that can be redeemed for prizes. The number of points you earn is based on how many tickets you’ve bought.

If you want to participate in Play It Again drawings or get in on any of the 2nd-chance promotions offered by the Arkansas Lottery, you must be a member of “The Club” – the name of the Arkansas players club program.

Members of The Club can also download an app on their phone to get updated winning numbers for the various games and jackpots. You can also sign up to get those updates via email.

Conclusion

The Arkansas lottery is one of the state lotteries that puts its money where its mouth is, using the funds for education. That’s apparent immediately when you consider the name of the lottery: The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.

The games available can, of course, change at any time. This page will be updated periodically, but you can also get the latest details at the official site: https://www.myarkansaslottery.com/