/Lawmakers hesitant to gamble on lottery

Lawmakers hesitant to gamble on lottery

As Alabama is poised to adopt a state lottery, Mississippi could be next. Mississippi, if Alabama lawmakers and voters vote in November for a lottery, would be one of only five states without one. Officials in Mississippi are unable to pinpoint the reason why they have not adopted a lottery. Political maneuvering, concerns that a lottery might pull revenue from a reliable gaming industry, as well as the influence of religious convictions which is often a problem in the Bible Belt. Numerous lawmakers, both Republican as Democrat, expressed an interest in creating a lottery. 42 bills to create a state lottery were introduced in the 10 previous regular legislative sessions. All 42 bills were defeated in committee. In his speech at the Neshoba County Fair in July, Attorney General Jim Hood proposed a lottery to help fund pre-kindergarten. He is currently eyeing a bid for the 2019 gubernatorial election. The House passed a bill in 2016 with an amendment that would have allowed the Gaming Commission to create a lottery. Mississippi Today spoke to no state official about a study that was sponsored or known of any group that sponsored one. This article examines the economic potential of a lottery in Mississippi. “I’m not ready for death in the ditch necessarily,” Rep. Greg Snowden (R-Meridian), the speaker protempore, made clear why some legislators are reluctant to pursue the lottery route. Treasurer Lynn Fitch stated that Mississippi has a deficit of at least $135million in its current fiscal year. Last fiscal year, Gov. Phil Bryant raided reserves and cut budgets twice to offset lower-than expected revenues. If Alabama Gov. If Robert Bentley’s proposal for a lottery is approved, he claims that $225,000,000 a year would go into Alabama’s general fund in order to pay off major departmental debts. Lt. Governor. Tate Reeves said. Recent support for lottery Mississippi’s possibility of adopting a lottery is open to all, as long as it follows the law. Just two years after Mississippi legalized dockside casinos, 53 percent of Mississippi’s voters lifted the Constitutional ban. The Legislature and governor can choose to create a state lottery based on their merits at any given time. Both state officials from both sides have considered adopting a lottery this year. Hood, D-Houston said at the Neshoba Country Fair that a state lottery could generate $160 million to support pre-kindergarten education. The $160 million figure was derived from a self calculation by Rep. Tommy Reynolds (D-Charleston), who used it on the House floor to propose an amendment that would have created a state lottery. Reynolds wrote a 33-word amendment for an online fantasy gambling bill on a piece paper on March 29 and gave it to the House clerk. The amendment would have allowed Mississippi Gaming Commission to create a statewide lottery. Half of the proceeds would go towards public education and half to maintenance of city roads. It was approved by the House. The bill was supported by 38 Republicans and 43 Democrats, and 34 Republicans and three Democrats opposed it. Six Republicans were chosen by Reeves, R-Clinton, to form a joint conference committee. They then modified the bill according to normal procedures. The bill’s final draft did not include the lottery amendment. Reynolds stated that Mississippi needs it more than other states that have it. “We will soon find ourselves in a position where we are the only ones not to take advantage of the revenue stream that is available. Even if we get $100 million per year from a lottery that’s still $100 million that we don’t have today that we can really, really use tomorrow,” five measures to create a state lottery were introduced during the 2016 regular legislative session. All of them died in committee. * Senator Tommy Gollott (R-Biloxi) sponsored a bill to establish a state lottery. This would supplement the Mississippi Adequate Education Program as well as the maintenance and repair of roads and bridges. * Richard Bennett, R.Long Beach, chairman of the House Gaming Committee sponsored a bill that would allow multistate lottery games to take place in existing gaming establishments. * Rep. Mark Baker (R-Brandon) introduced a Concurrent Resolution, which would have suspended rules and allowed for the drafting of a bill that would establish a state lottery. * Two separate bills were introduced by Rep. Alyce. Clarke (D-Jackson) that would create a state lottery for higher education funding. Reynolds opposed the creation of a state lottery as recently as two years ago. Reynolds heard from constituents that they were driving hundreds of miles north to Tennessee to get a chance at winning millions as Powerball jackpots rose in the past two years. Reynolds asked, “If people are going out of state to spend their money for this to start with, why don’t we put ourselves in the position that we can see some of it in Mississippi?” Clarke has been a member of the Mississippi House since 1985 and has sponsored lottery legislation every regular session since 2004. According to Clarke, Mississippi Today reports that all the tags along the Mississippi River are Mississippians purchasing lottery tickets. She also said she hears about lottery legislation from her constituents “nearly every week”. Others in the Legislature are not convinced. Rep. Vince Mangold (R-Brookhaven) said, “I would be against the lottery every single time.” “You will have people who would spend their hard-earned cash on a chance. They should be buying things for their families. It doesn’t make sense to me from a moral and religious perspective. It’s impossible.” Could it be possible? It is difficult to determine if a lottery can provide economic relief without a Mississippi-specific impact analysis. Arkansas, which has a population almost identical to Mississippi’s, may be the best case study. Arkansas earned $409 million last fiscal year from ticket sales and retailer fees. After subtracting expenditures and other items such as prize payouts, $72.6 million was transferred to public education funds. This figure is slightly lower than Arkansas’s first year of a lottery, fiscal 2010, when $82million was transferred to education funds. Jake McGraw, the public policy coordinator at The Winter Institute at University of Mississippi, said that while it is not pocket money, it is hardly a windfall. It would add a little more than 1 percent to the general fund budget. Already, we are facing a budget deficit of twice as much for fiscal 2017. Even if the revenue was earmarked to a worthy program such as college scholarships or preK, it’s difficult to imagine that the Legislature would keep it intact while they squeeze every last drop of the remaining budget.” Louisiana, which has 1.5 million more residents than Mississippi, received $184 million in public education and public health funds. The state of Tennessee, with a population of 3.3 million more than Mississippi, raised $335 million to fund college and K-12 education. According to Allen Godfrey (executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission), “It’s difficult to know if it would work here or otherwise.” “I don’t know how you can estimate the amount you’d make on it. Are you looking at the population? Location? Median income levels? It is not clear how these numbers are generated. “I don’t even know how I would guess.” There have been many national studies that draw parallels between state lottery results and poverty levels. According to the 2014 U.S. Census statistics Mississippi is at the bottom in terms of median household income and median per-capita income. However, it ranks at top in terms of poverty rate by household income. McGraw strongly opposed the creation of a state lottery. He said that the benefits and costs of the game are too overpriced and underappreciated. A piece of paper that is almost certain to become worthless in a matter of minutes or days is a poor investment. “The better the Mississippians spend on lottery gaming, the better. The simplest way to decrease lottery spending is to not create one.” McGraw’s words were echoed by some lawmakers. Snowden stated that it might encourage people to use food money to buy lottery tickets. It has a clear social cost, to my mind. It has a downside. It will encourage some people to become more involved.” Social and political barriers Three-fifths of the legislative vote are required to pass any revenue measure or tax measure. A simple majority vote cannot cut it. Despite the recent support of both Republicans and Democrats in Mississippi, Southern lotteries have been generally introduced under Democratic control. Democratic ex-Gov. Ray Mabus launched the campaign to lift the Constitutional ban on lottery. Ray Mabus was born in 1990. The Republican governor was elected at the time of the vote. Kirk Fordice, who was publicly opposed to a lottery, took the reins of government. Former Democratic Governor Mike Beebe was the one who adopted Arkansas’ lottery in 2009. Mike Beebe. Tennessee’s lottery was established in 2003 by Phil Bredesen, a Democratic former governor. Phil Bredesen. Louisiana’s lottery was established in 1991 by former Governor. Buddy Roemer served his first term as a Democrat and then his second as a Republican. McGraw stated that it makes sense for Democrats because it funds their priorities more, including education. It also placates the red-state aversion towards tax increases. “However, Fordice won in 1991, which prevented a lottery from being possible, and Bryant and Barbour have not shown any interest in it. Expect a revival in support for a lottery if the tide turns back to Democrats. In fiscal year 2015, Mississippi’s casino gaming industry brought in $2.1billion. When Reeves was asked about the possibility of a state lottery, he expressed concern that it might draw cash from existing gaming pools. Reeves stated that if one wants to increase state revenue, then the question is: Would any perceived increase from a lottery be offset with reductions in gaming receipts and sales tax collections? Godfrey shared Reeves’ concerns but did not deny the potential benefits of adopting this game. He stated that there hasn’t been a “major appetite from legislators” in his tenure as the commission’s director. He said that the commission would be open to citizens asking for a lottery, especially if Powerball jackpots are large. According to the Pew Research Center, Mississippi is the most religiously-oriented state in the country. Clarke said that she speaks regularly with officials from the state and believes Mississippi hasn’t adopted a lottery due to the religious nature many state politicians. Clarke stated that they hide behind religion to explain why they don’t want it. Clarke said that many people go to church, then go bingo. You take a chance when you play bingo. It doesn’t make a difference whether you play bingo or the lottery. Alabama lawmakers are considering the issue this week. In November, voters could decide. Mississippians could have to travel across state lines to be able to play the lottery if there are no recent lottery studies. Snowden stated that the biggest discussion that I have heard is that people may have missed their chance to do it. It may not be worth the effort if we do it ourselves. “I’m not convinced there’s as many there as we’d love to think.” Make a regular donation to support this work today to celebrate our Spring Member Drive. This will allow us to continue important work such as this one. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of all Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think.