By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Monday saw the official launch of scratch-off lottery tickets, the first offering from the Mississippi Lottery Corporation, officially established last year through the Alyce G. Clarke Mississippi Lottery Law.
For years, Mississippi has stayed away from lottery games along with five other states, Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah.
According to lottery supporters, this meant that Mississippi was missing out on revenue to neighboring states Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee, all which introduced lottery systems in the last 30 years.
“It’s been fun and it’s really amazing that we are here on launch day,” said Meg Annison, director of communications for the Mississippi Lottery Corporation.
Heading the corporation is Thomas Shaheen, who has a long history of work in state lotteries including in New Mexico, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Florida. He most recently served as vice president of Linq3, a lottery technology company.
Over 1,200 retailers have been authorized to provide lottery tickets in Mississippi.
As of Nov. 14, six retailers in Cleveland could sell tickets.
Retailers can also be found in Shelby, Shaw, Ruleville, Rosedale and Benoit.
One Cleveland retailer said sales had been steady but buyers seemed shy about others seeing them buy the scratch-offs.
Annison said retailers must apply with the corporation and pass a background check, credit check, and be in good standing with the Mississippi Department of Revenue among other things. The entire process takes about 30 days.
Equipment and trainings are provided at no costs.
Four games are available to play now and more games will be introduced in the coming year.
“We have been accepted into the organization that gives lotteries permission to offer MegaMillions and Powerball, and we will introduce those Jan. 30.”
Annison said that there would be announcements about the performance of the lottery in the first day and first week.
“By the time this fiscal year ends, June 30 of 2020, we will be up and running for seven months. We anticipate total sales, roughly about $125 million or so. That’s total sales and then the first complete fiscal year, July 1 through June 30 of 2021, we anticipate sales of roughly $275 million.”
The legislation has mandated that the first $80 million in net proceeds per year will be given to the state highway fund for road and infrastructure purposes and this will remain in place for 10 years.
Any money collected that goes over the $80 million cap will be devoted to the Education Enhancement Fund.
Following the first 10 years, proceeds will be transferred to the state general fund, but the amounts over $80 million will continue to be allotted to education.
Democratic state Rep. Alyce Clarke of Jackson has been pushing for years to bring a lottery to Mississippi. She bought a ceremonial first ticket at a RaceWay store and gas station in south Jackson.
“It feels great. Finally, it becomes a reality. And it just goes to show you what happens if you don’t give up,” Clarke said. “Sometimes you have to try and try and try again.”
Clarke had been pushing for all the money to go to education. She said she was disappointed with the way the money was apportioned but that the roads and bridges also needed investment.
The Mississippi Lottery Corporation announced Tuesday first-day sales surpassed $2.5 million translating into an anticipated return of $570,000 for the state coffers.
“We believe Mississippi has more than exceeded expectations,” said Shaheen. “We knew Mississippians were ready to play the lottery. We did not foresee the level of their excitement! Next, onto Powerball and MegaMillions!”