What is up with the Mississippi Lottery?

By PAT BROWN,

Representative Price Wallace got in touch with us the other day to say that if we needed a good speaker at Lions Club to let him know.  His suggestion was Meg Annison, Director of Communication for the Mississippi Lottery. 

  Price got to know her as the public information officer for the House before she transferred to House Majority Leader Phillip Gunn, as his director of communication. 

  Legislation supporting the lottery was passed during a special session in August 2018.  According to Meg, who started with the Lottery Commission in July when there were eight employees, the number has now risen to about 30 and will eventually grow to around 80.  The first lottery will start near the first of December 2019.  Annison said it could be earlier if everything was in place but they are in the coordination phase at this point.

  This will not begin as a big lottery but rather as scratch games.  Anniston said only three vendors supply the cards, and the Commission has selected the vendor so items like design will now start taking place.  The goal is to have Power Ball and Mega Millions in operation by spring.

  The legislation that was passed was dubbed the Alyce Clarke Lottery Bill because she had carried the torch for the lottery so many times over the years. 

  Proceeds will be broken down first  into 6 percent  to the vendor, the business that sells the tickets.  Anniston said that will be businesses like convenience stores, gas stations, supermarkets tobacco stores.  Payout to the winner will amount to 50 percent of the tickets sold, and 15 percent will go to the Lottery Commission.  The balance will go to the state.   

  According to Annison, they are budgeting for raising $125 million for the first seven months of operations, December 2019 through June 2020.  Again these are estimates, so there is not hard science on which to base these figures.  The first $80 million in profits are to go to Road and Bridge funding in the state and then filter down to the local level based on factors like population.  After the $80 million is met for road and bridge funds, some will be directed to public education and then to the state.  These figures are expected to build up funding and increase annually.  The funding eventually for Simpson County would be $600,000 with Magee  receiving around $100,000.  Other municipalities would get funding, but the amounts were not discussed. 

  To sell lottery tickets you must get approval from the Lottery Commission.  This can be accomplished on line.  Currently about 450 applications are on file. 

  Annison was asked questions by the group.  One of the more pointed was whether this is a tax directed at low income people.  She replied that there is no demographic information racewise; however, their research shows that the average lottery ticket purchaser has an annual salary of $40,000 a year. 

  Louisiana sells lottery tickets so the money that is currently going there would stay in Mississippi.  It was mentioned that there could be an increase in funds from Alabama residents buying tickets. 

  We hope that the lottery is our golden egg, but remember--casino gaming was also supposed to fix funding for education.