The Lottery Commission met for what they say will be the last time at the Capital to discuss a potential lottery and what affects it could have on Mississippi.
The members of the commission heard from six groups and their assessment of the impact of a lottery on the state. 12 organizations were contacted, but not all chose to respond with comment, including the Mississippi Baptist Convention, Catholic Diesis of Jackson, and Mississippi Humanities Council.
“The information being brought to us is just the facts. How much is the state going to get from it, how will affect the population, and who will be responsible for overseeing it,” said Executive Director of the Lottery Commission, Allan Godfrey.
Among the six organizations that chose to present many of the same facts were repeated.
One of which was the impact a lottery would have on those already living in poverty or in a lower income bracket. According to the John C. Stennis institute at MSU as well as the State Economist Darrin Webb, a lottery would be a regressive decision due to its impact on income inequality. In a mock lottery there was a significant increase in unemployment and a decrease in the retention of GED degrees.
Another concern mentioned by Larry Gregory, Executive Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission is the potential of VLT’S coming to the state. A VLT is a video lottery terminal, a machine very similar to a slot machine found in a casino.
“Our position, simply put, with lottery being bought and done on a paper we are okay with that. However we have seen in other states that lottery’s can bring in what we call VLT machines, which is nothing but another slot machine and they can be placed in every convenient store and truck stop in all 82 counties. We don’t look at that as what Mississippi started gaming for,” said Gregory.
The casino industry in Mississippi is a billion dollar investment and Gregory said it is the gaming commissions belief that if these VLT machines are allowed it will have a significant affect on that casino investment as well as tourism in the state.
“We had 22 million visitors last year and about 16 million of them visited casinos. I don’t believe that you can tell me that someone from Florida or Oklahoma or Oregon is going to fly to the Gulf Coast or Jackson Mississippi to play slots at a convenient store or at a restaurant,” said Gregory.
Since most lottery tickets are sold at convenient storess, the commission heard from a representative of the Mississippi Petroleum Marketers and Convenient Stores who said their findings reported that convenient stores make about a dime off of every lottery ticket sold, however 95% of customers who purchase a lottery ticket also buy at least one other item, and typically become regulars of that store. On average there are over 2,700 convenient stores in the state of Mississippi.
If a lottery was initiated it would be up to lawmakers as to whether convenient stores would partake in any of the jackpot winnings. States can opt in or out of allowing stores to receive a portion of that money. Retailers are also left with the choice of whether or not they want to sell lottery tickets at their establishment. It is not required.
At the end of the day the commission is not responsible for making a recommendation, just submitting the facts to lawmakers.
“We can give them all the facts that we’ve been able to gather and then they can make the determination for what they want to do with it, “said Godfrey.