The US state of Mississippi is part of the deep south, in the very heart of a region known as the Bible Belt, where religious opposition to many things adult modern society considers ‘fun‘ dominates the residential – and subsequently political – mindset. These include generally accepted activities; things like consuming alcohol or gambling, even playing the lottery.
Now, for the first time in over 25 years, officials are actually considering legalizing and regulating a Mississippi Lottery. For those unaware of the historic significance of this possible move, it should be noted that former Governor Ray Mabus (1988-1992) lost his 1991 re-election campaign, partly due to his support of legalizing the lottery in Mississippi to help raise funds for education.
Since then, the ‘VETO’ stamp has been held at the ready by any subsequent governor faced with the question of bringing a lottery to the Magnolia State, unwilling to risk their political career on an issue with the potential for such dramatic repercussions.
Times, They Are a’Changing
However, things have changed a lot over the years. Like most US states, Mississippi is facing a severe budget crisis. Government spending is skyrocketing, with no viable way to pay for it. And – also like many other states – officials are seeing the potential revenue from gambling activities in a new light.
Even Governor Phil Bryant, who was once quoted as describing the thought of a state-run lottery as a “silly notion”, seems to have turned over a new leaf. In a written statement on the issue, Gov. Bryant said:
“I would be open to a general discussion regarding a statewide lottery. 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.”
Mississippians Playing The Lottery In Tennessee
The opinion of state residents has clearly shifted from its staunch position some 30 years ago. When Tennessee began playing the lottery in 2004, thousands of Mississippi residents flocked across state lines to purchase tickets, and that was 12 years ago.
A new generation of enthusiastic gamblers are now voting alongside the state’s more antiquated religious sect, and with government coffers coming up shorter and shorter every year, a Mississippi Lottery may be just what the doctor ordered.
Many Politicians Still On The Fence
Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves hasn’t yet decided which side of the fence to hop down on. His concerns lie in where the money to instate a lottery in Mississippi would come from, and where its proceeds would end up.
There’s an “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?” questioned Reeves. “Would any perceived increase in revenue from a lottery be offset by reductions in sales tax collections and gaming receipts?”
Looking To Texas For Answers
While legislators continue to debate such matters, Gov. Bryant would do well to inspect the regulations and revenue scheme upheld by the Texas Lottery. Since that system was adopted in 1992, Texas has generated $25 billion for its state fund, $19 billion for education and $66 million for local veterans.
Scratch-off and Powerball sales helped Texas top the $5 billion mark in revenue this year alone, depositing a record $1.39 billion directly in the state’s tax coffers.