Local delegation: Lottery will benefit roads and schools

Published 7:52 pm Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Members of the county’s legislative delegation said revenue from the recently passed state lottery will provide seriously needed money to help Mississippi’s infrastructure and education.

“When you look at the revenue and how it’s going to be utilized for infrastructure and for education, I think the proceeds will be put into two areas of our state that need it significantly,” State Sen. Briggs Hopson III said.

The Mississippi House Tuesday approved a House-Senate conference bill that will split lottery revenue between infrastructure and education and prohibits the introduction of video gaming terminals, such as video poker, in places like truck stops. The House initially voted to kill the bill.

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Dist. 54 Rep. Kevin Ford, who voted against the bill in the first round, then voted to approve it, said one reason he did was language in the bill prohibiting video gaming. He said video gaming proponents lobbied very heavily to include the games in the lottery bill.

“It was crazy,” he said.

“We got it out on the conference report,” he said. “I was staring at a conference report that the chairman of (the) gaming (committee) put back out on the floor that had harsh language to video poker that said it could not be in. There could not have been stronger language. It shut the door.

“So my choice was gambling or gambling, and if I could put in a vote to stop video poker from entering 82 counties, that was worth it.”

All levels will benefit

Under the bill, Ford said, the first $80 million in lottery revenue will go to roads and bridges. All revenues past $80 million will go to education.

“The governor is saying $40 million the first year and $80 million the second year, and then after that, somewhere between $80 and $100 million,” he said, adding, “There is some talk it might take two years to get that up.”

Repeated attempts to contact Dist. 55 Rep. Oscar Denton, who voted for the bill, were unsuccessful.

Hopson said the initial revenue raised by the lottery for infrastructure will be divided between the cities, counties and the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

“It will be utilized at all levels of government for road and bridge improvements,” he said. “Under the bill 50 percent (of the proceeds) is supposed to be paid back to the winners.”

Hopson said he did have strong feelings either for or against the lottery, “But I recognized as I’ve sat here in Warren County and watched people in Mississippi go across the state line here in Vicksburg to buy lottery tickets in the Delta-Mound area, it made me realize that we were losing a lot of revenue.

“Further more, I’ve had a number of constituents complain that they have been frustrated that we’ve seen the dollars leave our state and go to other states.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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