Alyce Clarke bumps into $2B in lottery sales
Published 11:24 am Wednesday, January 24, 2024
By Sid Salter
Former State Rep. Alyce Griffin Clarke, D-Jackson, heads to a Jan. 26 “Night of Jubilee” event at the Jackson Convention Center this week honoring her 38 years of service to her District 69 constituents and along the way bumped smack into her legacy – the Alyce G. Clarke Lottery Law.
Clarke, who ended her legislative term earlier this month as the longest-serving female state legislator, is 84. The gala event – sponsored by Mississippi’s Connecting the Dots Foundation – celebrates Clarke’s extraordinary years of public service and her tenacity in the face of significant physical, societal and political odds.
Email newsletter signup
Coinciding with the event in Clarke’s honor was the announcement last week by the Mississippi Lottery Corporation (MLC) that the Mississippi Lottery had surpassed the $2 billion mark in gross sales in less than five years.
The MLC press release touting the achievement spelled out the fiscal impact on the state: “With sales reaching this level, the MLC has returned more than half a billion dollars to the State of Mississippi for roads, bridges and education since sales began Nov. 25, 2019. Direct beneficiaries include more than $377 million to the Highway Fund and more than $142 million to the Education Enhancement Fund.”
The Alyce G. Clarke Lottery Law requires the MLC to transfer net proceeds within 20 days following the close of each calendar month. The first $80 million goes to Mississippi Department of Transportation projects; proceeds exceeding $80 million are earmarked for the Education Enhancement Fund. The December transfer totaled $10.65 million – bringing the Fiscal Year 2024 total to over $66.2 million.
From a purely political standpoint, the state lottery is a worthy legacy. Generating a sustainable source of over $500 million (and growing!) in new revenues for state highways and public education is, however, just one of Clarke’s accomplishments. Her work in establishing state drug courts and establishing state partnerships to aid in slowing the scourge of the birth of drug-addicted babies has been nothing short of heroic.
As Rep. Clarke’s legacy is celebrated this week, it is important to note that she didn’t change. She was a strong Black Christian woman in 1985 who exhibited courtesy, mutual respect, calm, and gentle good humor in the conduct of her business in the Legislature. Even when shaming the House into finally constructing a restroom for the scant few women in the chamber, she did so relying on reason, not rancor. Clarke’s determined and dignified nature and her polite toughness — think velvet glove over a steely hand – allowed her to overcome most of that nonsense. Powerful men, even those in the opposing party, respected “Miss Alyce” because she quietly but surely demanded it.
For most of her tenure in public office, Clarke has been living with Multiple Sclerosis. She has relied on a cane for several years as she gracefully walked the marbled halls of the State Capitol Building. Her physical challenges never impacted her keen intellect or the grace and dignity of her legislative service.
For two decades, Rep. Clarke persistently introduced legislation to bring the lottery to Mississippi only to see the bill killed in the committee system by the influence of the strange political bedfellows who teamed up to kill it — usually the churches and the casinos.
Clarke saw the lines of cars taking Mississippi lottery players to Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida to buy lottery tickets and she wondered why a portion of those funds couldn’t stay in Mississippi to fund highways or education or public health or a host of other needs.
Each year when Clarke filed her lottery legislation, legislative colleagues killed it in the name of either protecting the existing casino industry or protecting us from ourselves in terms of religious and moral concerns. But stubbornly, defiantly, Rep. Clarke came back each year and filed her lottery bill again, and again, and again.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.