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No More Spin on Lottery

"Mississippi is already plagued by people making poor choices."

Boom. And thus ended the Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s reportage this week on the final state lottery hearing last Thursday. State economist Darrin Webb was describing how the state coffers might expand, but retail sales would decrease. Lottery sales subtract from already existing economic activity, which is precarious in a state running at or near the bottom in that category.

Poor choices? Standing first in line is Gov. Phil Bryant, who is well aware that dubious moral options such as the lottery are no better than the casinos he has stood tirelessly against, especially when he was running for governor. Bryant has inexplicably promoted the possibility of people surrendering hard-earned dollars for a chance to take money from other people. He knows better.

Poor choices? According to the Clarion-Ledger’s Geoff Pender, a number of pro-family organizations were no-shows when invited to attend the hearing and address the issue. I spoke with a leader from one of these groups; he labeled the issue a “stupid tax” and stated that he wasn’t too keen on standing against it as he wasn’t planning on being one of the “stupid.” How noble.

Poor choices? How about the Clarion-Ledger itself, whose editorial board appears giddy at a seemingly new source of income for the state, despite the evidence that other states that have instituted the lottery are not flush with funds as a result. The lottery is not likely to boost the state coffers any more than casinos have solved education funding problems as they were touted to do. And the way our state legislature spends money, any cash infusion will have exceedingly little effect.

Poor choices? Mississippi has a greater proportion of economically-disadvantaged citizens than does any other state—persons who may see the lottery as the answer to all their problems and waste monies they cannot afford, further impoverishing their families. But it’s not just the poor who are at risk: the lottery has the potential to feed an addiction that few individuals and families can fund.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has vocally opposed the lottery and could nip this detrimental proposal in the bud if he so desires. He should expend the political capital to follow through with such an action.

Some observers maintain that the political tides necessitate Gunn just going along with the current. But there are issues where it is necessary to stand fast. Stopping the lottery in its tracks would be a good choice—a commodity that seems to be in short supply in our state when it comes to this issue.

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