‘No’ to the Lottery

The governor of our state has a strong voice and in the current legislative session, he has chosen to use it to support bringing the lottery to Mississippi. In his State of the State address, he pointed out that dollars are being lost as our citizens cross the borders to buy lottery tickets in other states. As recently as last week, he called on the Legislature to make another attempt to pass a bill that would supposedly enable tens of millions of dollars to flow into the state treasury in a day when huge cuts are being made because of the shortfalls of revenue. This would be a great help, he believes.

Really? I would like for the governor, the legislators, and the fine folks of Mississippi to think about five simple questions.

1. Where is all the revenue that was going to improve schools, build and fix roads, and keep our taxes low from legalizing the sale of beer, wine, and whiskey, or by opening our doors to the casino industry that now lines our river and coastal lands, or even the carving-out of areas of our state for “resort” status that would be lucrative regions because of increased alcohol sales?

Sounds great, except the schools still struggle. Roads still need more gas tax revenue, and other taxes are still being considered for increases by nearly every state, county, and municipal leader.

2. Where do the tens of millions of dollars in potential revenue come from? The dollars that would flow into the state coffers would flow out of the pockets of Mississippi’s citizens. In my opinion, that money needs to stay with the people to be used as they see fit. We do not need a lottery system that sets up a state collection agency in every gas station, convenience store, and grocery store in our state.

For instance, the most recent pile of money that was given away in the multi-state Powerball lottery scheme was worth over $400 million. States on our borders engender a fever for everybody to get in on the game, while every state government that participates receives a cut of the revenue from folks across the country who lost billions of dollars purchasing tickets. The winning ticket this time was found in Indiana. However, the people who lost their money purchasing the tickets are found in dozens of states.

3. Where does an individual turn who, after spending all his/her the money to buy lottery tickets, loses and still has needs that must be taken care of? They look for help in the community, of course, in community care services whether governmental or church-related or community ministries. With economic pressures already in place today that make every dollar count, these helping agencies are already stressed and squeezed and stretched beyond their resources. Even now they are lovingly doing their job, but do not need the state creating the additional burdens on them that come from the lottery.

4. What is a lottery? It’s just another form of gambling where you buy a ticket with a number on it hoping that your number will be picked out and you will be the grand prize winner. There are always two big winners when the Powerball numbers are chosen. One is the person who hits the jackpot, and the other is the state treasury. There are millions of people who have lost. A simple follow-up question to that is: What is gambling? The simple answer is that it is games where you put up valuables and then play with the hope of winning many more mega-valuables. Eventually everyone who gambles will lose, and some will lose lots — with the one exception of the people who control the game who in this case would be the state governments who put in place the lottery. I do not believe Mississippi needs to be involved in the state putting in place across every county and in every corner opportunities for our people to become losers.

5. How can you help keep a lottery out of Mississippi? The governor and many of our leaders across the state and our legislators have strong voices in this matter. You can let the governor know today of your opposition. The united voice of people who care can be stronger than one leader’s voice or all of the legislative bodies’ voices, but you must speak up. One of our legislators was quoted in the newspaper as saying that people don’t seem to be opposed to the lottery, in fact they had not even heard from the Baptists. Well, they need to hear from us this week. They need to hear from all of us. Here are their telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. Use this information to express your opposition.

The governor and those who have supported the lottery have been careful to make this an economic issue. That’s fine, except I think the economics need to flow to the people of Mississippi and not into the coffers of the state government. God help us to be able to discern what is best for all the people of our state and not just best to help us through an economic crisis.

The author can be contacted at directions@mbcb.org.

Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer