State Politics

This could be a lucky year for lottery bills

Powerball tickets become hot commodities when the jackpot soars.
Powerball tickets become hot commodities when the jackpot soars. AP

Day 1 of the 2017 legislative session has already brought two lottery bills, both filed by Rep. Alyce G. Clarke, D-Jackson.

One bill would establish the “Mississippi Lottery for Education” and have it administered by the Mississippi Gaming Commission. That one was assigned to the Gaming Committee and the Revenue and Expenditure General Bills Committee.

The other calls for a statewide special election on a lottery, which, if approved, will go to “Mississippi Hope Scholarship Fund.”

That one will have to get through three committees: Gaming; Rules; and Revenue and Expenditure General Bills.

Mississippi has had one referendum of sorts on the lottery issue. Voters agreed to remove a constitutional ban on lotteries.

One of five states with no lottery, Mississippi last year came as close as it ever has to getting one.

A hastily scrawled amendment to a fantasy-sports bill that would have allowed the Gaming Commission to establish a lottery — half the proceeds of which would go to public education and half to city and county road improvements — was OK’d by the House on a voice vote. It disappeared from the bill in the conference committee.

Four lottery-related bills failed to launch last year.

This year, though, Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves have said they would at least be willing to consider lottery proposals.

Astronomical Powerball jackpots regularly send untold numbers of people from Mississippi to neighboring Louisiana for tickets.

A 2014 Census Bureau study found lotteries paid state treasuries a total of $21.2 billion. Louisiana made $160 million on lotteries that year. Mississippi, on the other hand, took in $254 million in gaming taxes from casinos in 2015, according to the Mississippi Gaming Association.

And Reeves said he doesn’t want lotteries to chip away at the casino business.

“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?” Reeves told the Clarion-Ledger in October. “Would any perceived increase in revenue from a lottery be offset by reductions in sales tax collections and gaming receipts?”

If the record-breaking Powerball jackpot has you dreaming of how you would spend the winnings — you are not alone. But where you live plays a big role in how much of the prize you would get to keep. By: Nicole L. Cvetnic and Sarah Whitmire / McCla

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