Editorials

Sun Herald supports a lottery in Mississippi. Here’s why.

A Powerball lottery sign displays the lottery prizes at a convenience store Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Chicago. An estimated $550 million jackpot is up for grabs on Saturday night's Powerball lottery drawing, making it potentially the 8th largest prize in the nation.
A Powerball lottery sign displays the lottery prizes at a convenience store Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Chicago. An estimated $550 million jackpot is up for grabs on Saturday night's Powerball lottery drawing, making it potentially the 8th largest prize in the nation. AP

Mississippi should have a lottery.

For decades, millions of dollars have left the state as Powerball and Mega Millions players chase their dream of instant riches to Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas or Louisiana to buy a ticket for a multimillion-dollar jackpot. That’s millions that should have been going to the state treasury. Millions that could have been applied to schools, roads and other basic needs of Mississippians.

Mississippians have voted to have a lottery. And they are still voting with their pocketbooks.

We can’t understand why our lawmakers have not listened. But we hear that this year they have heard the voice of the people. And it sounds like this legislative session is our best chance of getting a lottery. Sen. Philip Moran said he has 38 senators who told him they’d vote for a lottery if it gets to the Senate floor. It should. We urge Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to make that happen.

We don’t know what lawmakers will propose, but we know what the final product should look like.

It should give lottery players access to Powerball and Mega Millions games. Nothing more. There is no reason to try to entice gamblers to spend any more on lottery tickets than they already spend in other states. Mississippi doesn’t need scratch-off games, or video lottery machines.

We should keep it simple. Give Mississippians the games that have driven them to jump in their cars and trucks regardless of the weather and drive to the nearest out-of-Mississippi convenience store.

Because many of them are not only spending money on the lottery. They have dinner. They shop. They buy gas. They spend money that they otherwise would have been spending closer to home.

Critics question how much money a lottery will bring in. Even if it doesn’t bring in the $80 million to $100 million some predict, it will capture money that today heads out of state.

Critics say the lottery is like a tax on people who can least afford to pay. Again, if it is, it is a tax they are already paying, they just aren’t paying it to Mississippi.

A lottery won’t end the debate over how we fund government, how much we should pay in taxes, how much we pay for schools or roads or any function of government. Those are different debates.

The question here is, do we want people playing the lottery in Louisiana or Mississippi? That’s an easy question.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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