Why Mississippi doesn't have a lottery?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 6:03pm

As tonight's Powerball jackpot is expected to pay out at least $550 million to its lucky winner... or winners, many will buy a ticket, then dream what they will do with all that money if they win.

For Mississippi residents, they have to put in a little extra effort for that dream to become possible. In Mississippi, along with six other states, there is no state lottery.  Depending on where you live in Mississippi, the closest place to purchase a Powerball ticket is either Louisiana, Arkansas, or Tennessee.

In Delta, La., situated on Interstate 20 across the state line from Vicksburg, Miss., gas stations have formed lines filled Mississippi residents ready to purchase Powerball tickets. The lottery fever is so strong in Delta, the gas station attendants sell more lottery tickets than gas.

In 1992, Mississippians voted, by 53 percent, to change the state constitution to allow a lottery. However, Mississippi lawmakers never enacted it. The reasons for no lottery in Mississippi are many, but two seem to be at the forefront of discussion.

The state already has a money-generating casino gaming industry, generating $177 million in September alone, according to the Mississippi Department of Revenue. Many fear a Mississippi state lottery will take revenue away from the casinos.

Another reason may be due to religious or moral convictions. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has gone on record saying that a lottery, he believes, is a hidden tax given to those who can least afford it.  

Supporters say a lottery would help Mississippi's state budget, in which proceeds could be earmarked for education. Casinos in Mississippi are also slowly losing revenue to increased competition in neighboring states, such as Louisiana where casino revenue has steadily increased. Another argument is Mississippians would not spend money, importantly the taxes generated from the lottery tickets, in neighboring states that have a lottery.

While the lottery debate continues in Mississippi, the gas stations in Delta, La. will see the boost in business from Mississippi residents dreaming big to hit the Powerball jackpot.

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