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Last minute bill change pushes lottery through House committee

It started as a bill to require mental evaluations for those who have been charged with a crime and are about to stand trial.

By the end of the meeting, it was a bill to create a state lottery.

House Judiciary A committee chairman Mark Baker said he called for the strike-all on House Bill 804— which essentially means the only thing left standing on the bill was the bill number itself– and in the place of the previous content, a bill that would create a lottery for the state and enlist in a multi-state lottery system.

Baker said it’s a move he feels strongly about.

“I think about our citizens first and then I think about our merchants who are at or near the borders,” said Baker. “And they’re seeing business go across the state borders.”

Baker said Mississippi’s neighboring states all participate in a lottery of some sort, and that is driving Mississippians across state lines–taking their money with them.

The ongoing debate of a state lottery has revolved around where the money from a lottery would go.

“This bill doesn’t allocate,” said Baker. “Right now, it would go into the General Fund and be used for General Fund purposes.”

Governor Phil Bryant has said he supports a lottery, but doesn’t want to see the money earmarked–just put into the general fund.

The bill would direct the gaming commission to create a state lottery and also become part of the multi-state Powerball consortium.

Lawmakers in the past have been split on the issue of the lottery. Baker said that in the committee, a roll-call vote was not required.

“We don’t take a roll-call vote unless it is requested,” said Baker. “There were votes for it.. there may have been some votes against it, I don’t recall.”

Baker added that given the support, the bill could have some legs on the House floor.

“Looking at the support today,” said Baker. “It could pass in the House.”

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has spoken against a lottery in the past, and according to a statement, the sentiments haven’t shifted.

“The Speaker has not changed his position on the lottery,” said a statement from the Speaker’s staff. “He still opposes it.”

The lottery bill will be added to the calendar and will be taken up by next week.

News Mississippi will continue to follow the bill.


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