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Convenience store clerks react to lottery

With a Mississippi state lottery looking more like a possibility than ever, several Oxford convenience store clerks are weighing in on a change that will directly affect their businesses.

The lottery is expected to generate around $80 million a year in revenue. The bill to introduce a state lottery, filed by Sen. Philip Moran of Kiln, will be discussed in the current legislative session.

For Lynora Jackson, a cashier at Marathon on South Lamar Boulevard, a state lottery is something that will benefit all Mississippians.

“I think it’s a good idea, because it’ll bring money to the state, for schools and things like that, and it could help with taxes too,” Jackson said. “We could definitely end up selling tickets here if it gets passed.”

In terms of funding, there have been around $415 million in corporate tax cuts on top of a tight state budget. A lottery could replace some of that lost revenue.

Mississippi is one of only six states without a lottery, and because it would be state-run, funds could be accessed with very little administrative overhead. Proceeds from the lottery could fill gaps in the current budget, benefitting education as well as infrastructure and healthcare, all of which Gov. Phil Bryant said were issues in last night’s State of the State address.

Other states have seen success with lottery programs, too. For example, Fla. earned over $6 billion last year, while Tenn. and Ga. earned around $1.86 billion and $4.6 billion, respectively. In the meantime, Miss. casino gaming earned about $1.9 billion in 2017.

Some house Republicans have publicly stated they are against a state lottery, especially considering recent statistics that named Miss. as the most gambling-addicted state in the country, due in part to the casinos on the Gulf Coast and in Philadelphia, Tunica, Natchez and Vicksburg.

Abel Ali, a local convenience store clerk, says one of his concerns is public safety once a lottery is implemented.

“It’s dangerous up in Memphis,” Ali said. “And they have the lottery there.”

However, many in the state legislature are pro-lottery, including Sen. Gray Tollison, who represents Lafayette County.

In the Eggs and Issues breakfast Monday morning, he was quoted as saying a lottery was “a great possibility.”

“If you’d asked me five years ago, I wouldn’t think the lottery would have passed,” he said. “But this year is different, it’s got traction.”

Many EAGLE readers seem to be pro-lottery as well. In a recent poll on the EAGLE’s website, 85 percent of those polled said they were pro-lottery, while 15 percent said they were against the lottery.

The 2018 state legislative session will end in mid-March, with a decision expected in the next few weeks.