Mississippi Governor Open To State Lottery Talks

Friday October 7th 2016

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has opened the door for discussions over a lottery in the state, giving hope to many players who have previously had to cross over the border to take part in games. There has been a reluctance from lawmakers in Mississippi for decades to even contemplate a statewide lottery, but the suggestion is that it could now be put back on the table in an effort to boost the economy.

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There has not been significant government support for a lottery in Mississippi since Ray Mabus failed in an attempt to introduce one in 1990, and Bryant had said only in January that he thought the idea of a lottery was a ‘silly notion’. However, financial issues have left state officials looking for new ways to generate revenue, and a lottery has again been raised as one possible option.

The lure of huge jackpots in multi-state games, such as the record $1.6 billion Powerball prize from earlier this year, has seen many Mississippi residents travel to neighboring states which sell tickets - most notably Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas. Bryant is now prepared to hold talks about the issue, although he has warned that careful consideration would have to be given to how the money raised from a lottery could benefit the state.

“I would be open to a general discussion regarding a statewide lottery,” the governor said in a written statement after being contacted by the Clarion-Ledger. “However, I would be opposed to this particular revenue being dedicated to specific expenses, such as public education. Our children’s future should not be left to a game of chance.”

Lt. Gov Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn were also asked for their views on a Mississippi state lottery and, while Gunn said that he did not want the issue to even be put to the vote, Reeves appeared to be more open-minded. However, Reeves also pointed out that a lottery’s success should not be taken at face value, highlighting the fact that casinos might suffer a significant drop in revenue as a result.

He explained: “The economic question that must be answered: Would a state lottery add to the economic pie or would it simply shift Mississippians’ disposable income from one outlet to another? … Would any perceived increase in revenue from a lottery be offset by reductions in sales tax collections and gaming receipts?”

It is likely to be a considerable period of time before the issue of a Mississippi lottery ever gets to the stage where it could be passed into law and tickets go on sale, but the fact that the Governor is now ready to start talks shows that it could become a serious possibility and the coming months will be fascinating as those discussions take place.

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