Is it time for a Mississippi lottery?

Published 12:04 pm Thursday, February 12, 2015

Just across the state line, thousands of Mississippians lined up to purchase the winning ticket for this week’s Powerball drawing and a chance to become a millionaire.

The Magnolia state allows for casinos up and down the river, on the Gulf Coast and at Native American Indian Reservations, but it is still only one of six states that have not adopted the lottery. Perhaps it’s time to revisit a state lottery system for Mississippi.

With Warren County gaming revenue taxes down nearly 6 percent from the same time in 2014, it appears the gaming boom has gone bust. At the current pace collections for fiscal 2015 would be $2.2 million, or about $300,000 off from projections in this year’s budget.

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“As soon as The Vicksburg Post puts the numbers in, people will just look at the numbers,” District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon said. “The first question they will ask is where is all that money going. It’s usually what people say next.”

“We spend our (gaming) money on one-time things, road paving and equipment for law enforcement,” county administrator John Smith said. “We don’t spend it on operating costs.”

Casinos statewide won $988 million from gamblers in 2014, the first time it’s dipped below $1 billion since 1994. Revenues have fallen six of seven years since a $2.89 billion peak in 2007.

Over the past several years lottery tickets have become a significant source of funds for states, with nearly three percent of their total budgets coming from state lottery systems.

This week the parking lot at Delta Discount Wine and Spirits in Delta La. was packed with vehicles that had Mississippi tags. Many Mississippians seem to be in favor of a lottery system, why should we let that revenue go out-of-state?

With Mississippi struggling to adequately fund its public schools and the Medicaid roles ever expanding, our state needs to look at alternative sources of funding.