It seems that every year, the Mississippi Legislature goes ga-ga when they see news video of citizens lined up to cross the state line to buy lottery tickets in neighboring states. I’ve always said that the lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math.
With the advent of casino gaming in the 1990s, Mississippi did a few things right. First and probably most prescient, it required casinos to build land based hotels and amenities. This made “casinas” (as Haley Barbour put it) have “skin in the game”. As a result, tens of thousands of Mississippians have been hired in jobs in the gaming and hospitality industry. Currently, casino gaming puts about $192 million into the tax coffers in Mississippi (as of FY 2016). It brings tourists who buy gas, eat at restaurants, and support the economy. Casino gaming is in itself a destination and people come here to participate. A lottery ticket is something you buy at a gas station. Casino gaming is a bet that paid off, and 20+ years ago legislators didn’t dream it would be as successful as it has been in terms of tax revenue. How soon we forget. Plus, gaming companies have generally been good corporate patrons. The money that gets zapped from those companies via a state backed lottery will probably not find its way back into the community as well.
While the allure of lotteries, ostensibly tied to road improvement or education set asides, other states make money for sure. But all except Nevada (which also does not have a lottery – hint hint) and New Jersey have less of a commitment to casino gaming. As of 2010, Louisiana saw about $131 million in revenue, Arkansas saw $81 million and Tennessee saw $325 million. And I’m sure some of that comes from Mississippians pocketbooks. But casino based gaming draws revenue (both gaming and sales tax) from residents of those states as well.
House Bill 804 is the Lottery Bill. The Speaker of the House is generally on record saying that he doesn’t support, and there doesn’t seem to be much pull on the Senate side either.
Dance with the one that brung ya’ I say. Stick with casino gaming and don’t bet on the lottery. But the lottery bill is our #msleg . . . . #billoftheday.