Mississippi lawmakers could debate creation of a lottery

MGN Online

Mississippi residents for years have been crossing into Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee to buy lottery tickets.

Posted: Dec 27, 2017 8:32 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi residents for years have been crossing into Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee to buy lottery tickets.

In 2018, lawmakers could debate whether Mississippi will join the large majority of states that offer games of chance.

Supporters say money being spent on lottery tickets elsewhere could, instead, be spent in Mississippi, creating revenue to help pay for highways, schools or other state government services.

"If that money is going to go to educate children and it's going to go to fix roads and bridges, then it ought to be in Mississippi," Rep. Mark Baker, a Republican from Brandon, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I'm just being a realist about it."

Opponents, including leaders of the influential Mississippi Baptist Convention, say lotteries are spiritually corrupting and the games create unrealistic hopes for people who struggle to pay their own living expenses.

"It's pretty well documented that gambling, like alcohol, is not the best thing that can happen for Mississippi families. So, Mississippi Baptists are against gambling because it corrupts the soul," William Perkins, editor of the convention's weekly newspaper, the Baptist Record, said at the state Capitol in May.

Mississippi is one of six states without a lottery, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The others are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant suggested during his 2017 State of the State address that Mississippi should consider creating a lottery as a way to generate revenue without raising taxes. Weeks later, the House approved a lottery on a loud voice vote. But when a representative requested an electronic vote to record the yes or no of each member, there were only 40 votes in favor and 74 against. The proposal failed.

Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton, who's a leader in his Baptist church, opposes the lottery. After the 2017 legislative session ended, though, Gunn created a group that spent months studying the issue. Members gathered information about how much money other states have made from their lotteries, but made no recommendations for or against creating a lottery in Mississippi.

Mississippi voters in November 1992 removed the state constitution's prohibition on a lottery, but the games of chance are still banned by general state law.

The first casinos opened in Mississippi in August 1992, and since then, an unlikely alliance of religious groups and casino operators has opposed creating a lottery in the state.

Casinos are now more targeted in their opposition. The director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association, Larry Gregory, told the lottery study group in November that casino operators would not be against the creation of a state lottery that sells paper tickets for scratch-off games or multistate Powerball games — but they oppose video gambling in places like bars and convenience stores.

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr., a Democrat who served on the study group, said that like other members, he is not taking a position for or against a lottery. But, he said if one is created, legislators should not put the lottery revenue into the general state budget. Rather, he said the money should be used to build up the state's rainy day fund, which provides a financial cushion in case of shortfalls in tax collections.

"You could collect it a year before you spent out of it. And it's a safeguard — a conservative safeguard," Flaggs said in November.

Mississippi's state economist, Darrin Webb, said in November that Mississippi residents spend an estimated $5 million to $10 million a year playing the lottery in Arkansas and about $30 million playing the lottery in Louisiana. Webb said the figures came from lottery administrators in those states.

The study group examined how much money neighboring states collected, after prizes were awarded and expenses were paid, during the budget year that ended June 30, 2016. The figure for Arkansas was $85.2 million. For Louisiana, it was $177.9 million. For Tennessee, it was $395 million.

Mississippi Senate Finance Committee Chairman Joey Fillingane, a Republican from Sumrall, said Tuesday that he opposes a lottery but would allow his committee to vote on a bill if one is filed. While some lottery supporters have suggested the state should earmark any collections for highways, Fillingane said the Department of Transportation has requested roughly $300 million to $400 million for a long-term program of construction and improvements and he thinks a lottery would generate only about $50 million to $100 million a year.

"It's not the end-all, be-all that some people think it is," Fillingane said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 250869

Reported Deaths: 5481
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto16841171
Hinds15890312
Harrison13037191
Rankin10439205
Jackson10128177
Lee8721135
Madison8071160
Jones6166108
Forrest5870117
Lauderdale5724177
Lowndes5238109
Lafayette486192
Lamar475363
Washington4734122
Bolivar3941106
Oktibbeha388179
Panola360475
Pontotoc358752
Monroe3487103
Warren337895
Union337457
Marshall336065
Neshoba3325150
Pearl River319492
Leflore2980104
Lincoln293385
Sunflower277569
Tate266659
Alcorn260651
Itawamba258858
Pike258176
Hancock253557
Prentiss242450
Scott241043
Yazoo237754
Copiah237449
Tippah236246
Simpson232367
Leake227864
Coahoma223154
Grenada215770
Covington208871
Marion206171
Adams201666
Winston198061
George197438
Wayne196130
Attala191658
Newton186542
Chickasaw181243
Tishomingo179659
Holmes167867
Jasper165134
Clay156732
Stone140218
Tallahatchie138234
Clarke136460
Calhoun133321
Smith118823
Yalobusha113834
Walthall111136
Noxubee109622
Greene108929
Montgomery108134
Carroll103721
Lawrence101217
Perry99131
Amite96425
Webster90624
Claiborne85125
Tunica84521
Jefferson Davis83825
Humphreys81524
Benton80323
Kemper75720
Quitman6758
Franklin65315
Choctaw59613
Wilkinson58125
Jefferson53019
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1586
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 417528

Reported Deaths: 6030
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61313888
Mobile29768542
Madison26637185
Tuscaloosa20580268
Montgomery18696304
Shelby18310113
Baldwin16002179
Lee12261101
Morgan12093112
Etowah11604157
Calhoun10982200
Marshall10108107
Houston8474129
Cullman7960104
Limestone790174
Elmore7723101
DeKalb764697
St. Clair7460120
Lauderdale745183
Talladega6102108
Walker5852174
Jackson574441
Blount526483
Colbert525670
Autauga510355
Coffee434256
Dale391081
Franklin363445
Chilton333565
Covington326167
Russell323810
Escambia312442
Dallas300296
Clarke278233
Chambers277869
Tallapoosa2599107
Pike245829
Marion240549
Lawrence240447
Winston223835
Bibb213047
Geneva197431
Marengo197329
Pickens195231
Hale173742
Barbour171236
Butler167958
Fayette166026
Cherokee159630
Henry151119
Monroe144417
Randolph138535
Washington136526
Clay125246
Crenshaw118044
Lamar116619
Cleburne116023
Macon113335
Lowndes108735
Wilcox101221
Bullock98128
Perry95419
Conecuh92920
Sumter88726
Greene75323
Coosa60414
Choctaw51224
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