Lottery ticket sales begin. So, how will it help Mississippi?

Updated: Nov. 25, 2019 at 8:34 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Lottery tickets are now available in Mississippi.

The state law setting out the rules of the game is named after Rep. Alyce G. Clarke who pushed to have it for more than 20 years.

“What we’re doing with this is a fun game," said Clarke. "But it is for roads and bridges and will soon be for education.”

Let’s take a closer look at the specifics of where that money will go.

First, it will go to infrastructure, but as MDOT Central District Commissioner Dick Hall notes, lawmakers put a 10-year cap on the money.

“That was in 2018, this is end of the year in 2019 and there isn’t a nickel so far,” said Commissioner Hall.

So, the department won’t see a full 10 years’ worth of new dollars going to the Highway Fund. The law specifies that the first $80 million raised will be paid to that fund till July 1, 2028.

“Every little bit helps, but it’s nowhere near what we’ve got to have if we’re going to fix what we’ve got and start doing some kind of planning for our future economy,” noted Hall.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association says it costs anywhere from $4-10 million per mile to construct a new 4-lane highway. So, $80 million wouldn’t go too far.

Hall says it’s unlikely to see it used in that way and for this reason:

“Eighty-million dollars won’t even begin to cover just the maintenance that we have in a year, let alone doing anything new and different," explained Hall. "I mean, literally, you could not go out and resurface the highways that need resurfacing with eighty-million dollars. I’m sorry, it’s expensive.”

From now on, including after 2028, anything over $80 million generated by the lottery each year will go into the Education Enhancement Fund.

“We need to start with the roads and bridges because we need a safe way for our children to get to their schools,” said Rep. Clarke.

After July 1, 2028, the first $80 million will go into the state’s general fund.

As a reminder, it’s only scratch-off tickets available currently. Powerball and MegaMillions will be coming in January.

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