Arkansas Native Earns $1 Million Lottery Prize After Vaccination

The lottery ticket was offered as an incentive to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lottery Tickets

An Arlington, Texas man says he is still trying to fathom the reality of winning $1 million on a free Arkansas Scholarship Lottery scratch-off ticket that he received as a COVID-19 vaccine incentive.

Gary Smith claimed his prize Monday at the ASL Claim Center in Little Rock, according to a press release. Smith, an Arkansas native, was in the state visiting family when they decided to go to the local health department to receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last Friday. 

In May, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the state would give away lottery tickets and gift certificates as an incentive to get the vaccine. After showing proof that he received his second shot, Smith had his choice between a $20 $1 Million Spectacular scratch-off ticket or a $20 gift certificate for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. 

Smith scratched the winning ticket when he returned to his family’s home and said he couldn’t believe the result. 

“My grandmother was the first person that I told about my win,” he said. “We both were in total shock. She immediately wanted to leave to get her another ticket.” 

Smith works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He plans to pay bills and help his family with his winnings. 

“I recently got engaged in April and blessed to have the wedding and honeymoon of my dreams with my future wife,” Smith said. 

He is the 83rd person that has won a lottery prize worth $1 million or more in Arkansas since 2009. With Smith’s million-dollar win, one top prize of $1 million remains on the $1 Million Spectacular game, and a $50,000 ticket is still in circulation. 

Last week, officials announced the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery raised a record $106.6 million for Fiscal Year 2021, which ended June 30. Since its inception in 2009, ASL has raised more than $1 billion in scholarship proceeds. 

ASL Executive Director Eric Hagler calls the achievement “extraordinary,” especially in light of the socioeconomic challenges of the past year. 

“We are grateful because it allows us to fulfill our mission of helping to educate Arkansas students, which will have a long-term positive economic impact on our state,” Hagler said.

Lottery proceeds support three scholarship programs. The Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship provides tuition assistance for Arkansans at two- and four-year public and private colleges. The Arkansas Workforce Challenge Scholarship is available for students applying for certificate programs in high demand occupations. The Arkansas Concurrent Challenge Scholarship provides financial assistance to eligible students in the state who want to take college courses while still in high school. 

Corrigan Revels, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate and current employee of the school, said he was the first person in his immediate family to graduate from college, thanks in part to the lottery. 

“When I chose to attend UA-Little Rock, the lottery scholarship was a huge blessing,” Revels said. “Now, I’m in a position to help other students at my alma mater reach their fullest potential. I want to thank Arkansans for supporting students and graduates like myself.” 

Despite record numbers, Hagler said expectations for FY 2022 should be tempered because of potential limits on consumer discretionary spending. 

“The reopening of additional entertainment venues coupled with rising inflation and fuel costs represent a challenge to reproduce the same sales and net proceeds numbers achieved this past year,” Hagler said.