Consider a lottery in our state

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 17, 2016

For the last couple of weeks, it has seemed that everyone was talking about the Powerball and how they would spend the money if they won. Last week’s Powerball was the largest in global history at $1.6 billion and three winners split the pot after Wednesday night’s drawing.

One in 292.2 million were the latest odds to win the $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot. The lucky people who won the Powerball each have the option of taking a third of the $1.6 billion spread out over 30 years or a one-time payout of some $310 million or so. Even after Uncle Sam gets his share, each of the winners would still clear better than $150 million. Wow!

Some other odds that are interesting are that an American is roughly 25 more times likely to become the president of the United States than winning the Powerball. Or, you could flip a coin 28 times and have the same odds of the coin landing on heads every time.

Email newsletter signup

To put those odds in perspective, a person is much more likely to get struck by lightning or bitten by a shark than win the Powerball. Picking all 64 games in the NCAA basketball tournament actually has harder odds. The odds of picking all 64 teams randomly is about 1 billion times harder than picking the correct Powerball numbers.

Two weeks ago in Saturday’s drawing, 28 people correctly had the numbers to match the five white balls. None of them had the correct red Powerball number, 13, which was pulled last. Twenty-five of those people took home winnings of $1 million. Three had selected the Power Play option, automatically doubling their winnings to $2 million.

While Mississippi is one of six states that isn’t a part of the Powerball lottery — Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah are the others — we were the third state to legalize riverboat gambling in 1990.

Casinos in the state of Mississippi have all suffered since Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of the coast casinos in 2005 and the recession of 2008 hit everyone hard.

Casino revenue numbers continue to decrease, causing a shortfall in projected money for our state. Anyone who regularly visits the Tunica casinos or the ones on the Gulf Coast knows how things have changed in the last decade.

The drop in revenue is reflected in the tax revenue numbers collected from the Mississippi Gaming Commission. In 2008-2009, the total was $312,123,981, compared to $250,185,948 in 2014-2015.

Alabama is facing a deficit in its budget in the hundreds of millions, and will probably vote on setting up a lottery as early as this year. Maybe it is time that Mississippi legislators consider allowing Mississippians a chance to participate in a lottery without having to buy tickets elsewhere.

I know many friends and co-workers who have driven across state lines to Tennessee to buy lottery tickets during this latest Powerball craze. Many of these people either filled up with gas or ate at a restaurant while out of state. These are dollars that are leaving our tax coffers.

Hopefully, the people who won the Powerball will give a lot of the money to charities and realize how many people they can help with $1.6 billion. After all, aren’t we supposed to “Pay it Forward” to help others?

Tim Phillips is publisher of the Oxford EAGLE. Contact him at