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Local convenience store clerks react to lottery

Mississippi has officially joined the lottery game following a do-over vote during the special legislative session, and Oxford convenience store clerks said they’re looking forward to reaping the rewards.

Once Gov. Phil Bryant signs the bill, which was finally passed last Tuesday in a 58-54 vote, it will officially become law. Up to $80 million a year in lottery revenue is expected to contribute to solving the state’s infrastructure issues. Revenue over $80 million per year would go to the state’s Education Enhancement Fund, which benefits public education.

Aretha Howell, who works at Dees’ Oil Oxford Spot on the corner of Molly Barr Road and North Lamar Boulevard, said she is eager for a chance to play the lottery in her home state, but she doesn’t agree with the way proceeds will be distributed.

“The only thing I don’t like is, they could have put more toward education instead of roads and bridges. That’s something Mississippi has to do anyway,” Howell said. “That’s going to be a lot of money. I just paid for one (child) to go through college and I’ve got another who’s in college now. It would really help towards education.”

Howell said that nearly every day since the possibility of a state lottery was presented during the regular legislative session back in February and March, customers have come in and asked when they’d be able to buy lottery tickets without having to drive to Tennessee.

In the first year, the lottery is expected to generate $40 million. After that, it’s projected to bring in $80 million each year. The lottery games coming to Mississippi include Mega Millions, Powerball, and scratch-off tickets.

Jessica Walters works at the Marketplace at Oxford Commons, and as a Florida native, said she could see a state lottery being beneficial for Mississippi.

“One of the other ladies who works here in the morning, she’s all about the lottery. She and her husband will go up to Tennessee like once a week to get tickets, so she’s super stoked about it,” Walters said. “I’m surprised Mississippi hasn’t done this sooner. I really am, because honestly… the lottery will really help Mississippi.”

Several Oxford gas stations already sell lottery-like “phone card” tickets. The scratch-and-win game pieces are legal, because the money is all on a prepaid phone card instead of cash or a check. It only costs a few dollars to play, but there’s a potential to lose big.

Rockette’s on Molly Barr Road is one convenience store that sells phone card tickets, but clerk Abdel Bouaz said they’d love to transition to selling state lottery tickets instead.

“The lottery is good. When the state says it’s okay to sell tickets, we’ll sell them,” Bouaz said. “Every time (customers) come in, they say, ‘We wish we had a lottery here,’ because they have to drive all the way to Memphis.”

There are now just five states – Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah – that have no lottery.