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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: 320107

Reported Deaths: 7378
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22291269
Hinds20741421
Harrison18444317
Rankin13917282
Jackson13731249
Madison10270224
Lee10060176
Jones8473167
Forrest7834153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636088
Lafayette6314121
Washington5426137
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606147
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4161136
Union415877
Neshoba4064180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387087
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3372111
Alcorn327473
Scott320374
Yazoo314371
Adams308386
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298984
Simpson298589
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272274
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252251
Newton248963
Tishomingo232268
Winston230181
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167840
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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