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Texan wins first $1M prize in Arkansas' vaccine lottery

by Neal Earley | July 25, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.

When Gary Smith crossed state lines from Texas to Arkansas, he didn't know he was making a $1 million decision.

Smith is the first $1 million winner of the vaccine lottery, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery announced Monday.

The lottery, in which the state uses the prospect of winning cash to incentivize vaccination, is one of several perks offered in an attempt to increase Arkansas' low vaccination numbers.

Smith entered the lottery after getting his second shot Friday while visiting family in the state, according to a news release from the lottery.

He was given the choice between a $20 scratch-off ticket or two Arkansas Game and Fish Commission gift certificates worth a total of $21. After Smith scratched off his ticket Friday, he saw that he won.

"My grandmother was the first person that I told about my win," Smith said in a statement. "We both were in total shock! She immediately wanted to leave to get her another ticket."

Smith, who works with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, said he will use his winnings to help pay his bills.

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

For those looking to win big bucks, there still is one $1 million prize and a $50,000 ticket in circulation, according to Tiffany McNeal, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.

The vaccine lottery is a recent incentive intended to raise the state's lagging vaccination numbers. With Arkansas ranking near the bottom of the U.S. in its percentage of the population that's fully vaccinated, the state in May announced that it would give free lottery tickets or Game and Fish Commission gift cards for those who got the inoculations.

Since the program started, there have been 4,946 lottery tickets given out and 2,001 Game and Fish Commission gift certificates, according to Katie White, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Health.

While Smith is the first $1 million winner, 1,428 people have claimed smaller prizes of $500 or less.

Print Headline: Texan wins first $1M prize in Arkansas' vaccine lottery

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