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: 307332

Reported Deaths: 7095
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20757248
Hinds19869408
Harrison17475302
Rankin13307275
Jackson13095243
Madison9886210
Lee9854169
Jones8289160
Forrest7522146
Lauderdale7185237
Lowndes6261144
Lamar610284
Lafayette6026117
Washington5279132
Bolivar4769129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4440103
Pearl River4418139
Warren4277118
Marshall4267100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4056132
Union403575
Neshoba3984176
Lincoln3869107
Hancock371985
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3177104
Scott310472
Yazoo304268
Alcorn297664
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265679
Wayne261341
Leake260973
Grenada254882
Covington254380
Adams245882
Newton244859
George237647
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182354
Stone179131
Clarke176676
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163130
Yalobusha158636
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125833
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite119941
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105332
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95126
Humphreys94332
Franklin81723
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518588

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753351487
Mobile37698798
Madison33829494
Tuscaloosa25245443
Montgomery23942565
Shelby23094238
Baldwin20617300
Lee15510165
Calhoun14277311
Morgan14137268
Etowah13660345
Marshall11952219
Houston10379278
Elmore9988200
Limestone9806147
Cullman9467188
St. Clair9422234
Lauderdale9208227
DeKalb8745181
Talladega8042171
Walker7087275
Jackson6753110
Autauga6715103
Blount6480135
Colbert6200130
Coffee5397112
Dale4766110
Russell428238
Franklin419882
Chilton4080109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3892146
Escambia387574
Dallas3526149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305475
Lawrence295295
Winston272272
Bibb256258
Marengo248561
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218675
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176741
Monroe171240
Washington163838
Macon154348
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58624
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