For the past 25 years, Mississippi legislators have introduced bills to form a state lottery only for them to be rejected each time. In the past two years, the bills introduced in the House of Representatives have gotten some traction; however, it has not yet passed in both the House and Senate. As of last year, Gov. Phil Bryant has pushed for a lottery bill to pass.
Last month the lottery bill has been a large topic of discussion in Jackson. The Senate passed their version of a lottery bill 30-20 on Aug. 23. The House passed a similar version, 71 for and 43 opposed, requiring the lottery corporation to follow Open meeting and Public Record laws. The lottery bill passed the Senate on Aug. 27 but failed in the House by only six votes. Gov. Bryant called a special session for the House on Aug. 28 where the representatives re-voted causing the bill to pass with 58 for and 54 opposed.
At this point either the Senate needs to approve changes made by the House or both chambers need to negotiate new changes in order to pass the bill.
Mississippi is currently one of the six states without a lottery. Since the state is the center of the Bible belt, many legislators and their constituents have strong moral convictions against the gambling concept involved with a lottery. On the other hand, Mississippi remains the nation’s poorest state which is why supporters want the money lottery ticket sales would produce on state and local levels. I agree that Mississippi has an opportunity to change our reputation as a poor state by doing everything in our power to do so, which could include a lottery. As a state we already rely on the money made by the casino industry so why not open another door to more funds?
Gov. Bryant made legislators aware of the fact that Mississippi loses money to three of the four bordering states – all of which sell lottery tickets. According to the “Clarion Ledger,” Arkansas sees $85.2 million in profit, Louisiana sees $177.9 million and Tennessee sees $394 million. “Alabama.com” says Bryant is seeking an additional $400 million annually for the Department of Transportation’s budget in order to fix roads and bridges across the state. His solution seems to be instituting a state lottery.
Supporters predict it would initially take a year to get the lottery up and running correctly. Once set up the lottery is predicted to produce $40 million in profit initially then it would grow to $80 million. Although it is not as much as the Department of Transportation needs it would be start.
Implementing a lottery would benefit the state more than it would hurt it. Although it goes against my moral standards, alcohol and tobacco sales do as well. Nevertheless, sale of both benefit the state by the taxes placed on them. In order for Mississippi to rise from the bottom we need money to fund projects such as improving roads and bridges as Gov. Bryant is suggesting. Not only is Mississippi not producing enough money in general the state is losing money to other states. The best way to create a large amount of revenue would be with a lottery.