House vote revives lottery effort

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The lottery issue is before the Legislature once more.

Gil Ford Photography

Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson

Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson, introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 2976, the appropriations bill for the Mississippi Gaming Commission, which would require the state to implement a lottery before the commission receives funding.

Clarke has pushed for a lottery for years unsuccessfully, and on Thursday she told her peers on the House floor that the state needs a lottery to help fund K-12 education and send additional money for roads and cities.

The amendment states the gaming commission will not be funded until the Legislature “enacts legislation establishing a state lottery for the purposes of funding K-12 education, state aid, roads and municipalities.”

Many Democrats spoke in favor of the bill, arguing that Mississippians already travel to surrounding states to buy lottery tickets.

“The money is there,” said Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston. “The money is being spent in other states, not in ours.”

Appropriations chairman Rep. John Read, R-Gautier, said he was in support of a lottery but “this is really not the bill to do it” because the gaming commission would not oversee it if a lottery is established.

Rep. David Baria, D-St. Louis disagreed, reminding Clarke that leadership has never given a firm commitment to create a lottery.

Last year Speaker Philip Gunn announced the formation of a study committee to study the merits of a lottery — the group met multiple times, but all the lottery bills filed in the 2018 legislative session died in committee.

“We keep hearing ‘this is not the right vehicle.’ When is the right vehicle going to be before us?” Baria asked.

Clarke’s amendment passed on a voice vote, but House and Senate leaders still need to take the appropriations bill up in conference before the session is over.