Mississippi lottery: In it to win it?

Posted on Jan 31 2017 - 8:52pm by Carlyle Owen and Erin McGrath

Don’t line up for your lottery ticket just yet, but for the first time in living state history, a bill has been set forth presenting the possibility that Mississippians could strike it rich.

Earlier today, the Mississippi Judiciary A Committee changed House Bill 804 to set the groundwork to create a state lottery.

Republican Committee Chairman Mark Baker as well Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant are pushing for the bill to pass. Both of these officials are currently in session in Jackson and unavailable to comment.

Many people are skeptical that House Bill 804 will ever pass because this is not the first time it has been on the floor for discussion in the House. It died in committee just last February. The fact that the bill made it through committee surprised some Mississippians, but the chances of it passing are greatly increased with such significant pull on the Republican side.

The bill was passed by the committee and will now move to the House floor. Before that, the bill was originally focused on dealing with whether or not people in Mississippi charged with criminal offenses were mentally capable of standing trial.

Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson also supports the bill, but with one condition. He feels the proceeds would best be used for the benefit of Mississippi’s education system.

“I’m a public education man, and I think if lottery helps public education, I’m for lottery,” Patterson said. “Now if they’re getting their sticky fingers in it for anything else, I’m not so sure I’m for it.”

In addition to the monetary benefits, creating a state lottery would also help ensure that Mississippians are the ones employed in Mississippi. Section 4.4 of the bill reads that “any entity established to conduct a lottery… shall employ residents of Mississippi as employees in the operation of their establishments located in this state.”

According to ABC News, there are six states in the U.S. that do not have a state lottery including Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah.

Lotto Report estimates that more than 25 million tickets were sold for the last Mega Millions drawing that took place Friday. Tickets were sold for the $188 million jackpot.

Research assistant and former university political science professor Matt Becker thinks the lottery would be beneficial to Mississippi. He was an undergraduate recipient of Florida’s merit scholarship funded by the state lottery. He attended Florida State University.

“I would be in favor of a lottery,” Becker said. “I think it would be successful here. People go to casinos already… (the lottery) is more accessible. You don’t have to go to Tunica or the coast; you go to your gas station.”

Oxford resident and former Ole Miss head football coach Billy Brewer said he would definitely play the lottery if Mississippi started one.

“I’d jump on it every day even though your chances of probably winning is a long shot,” Brewer laughed. “My wife loved it. Good thing it wasn’t in Mississippi back then, or we wouldn’t have had any money.”

If the bill passes through Congress, it will enable the Mississippi Gaming Commission to partner with multi-state lotteries such as Powerball and Mega Millions.

This article was written as a special to The Daily Mississippian from an advanced reporting class.