Louisiana’s lottery, which pumps millions into public schools each year, could face new competition if efforts underway to create a lottery in Mississippi are successful.
It’s unclear how much revenue the lottery brings in each year from Mississippi residents who cross the state line to play in Louisiana.
But increased competition for the lottery could be especially unwelcome as the state increasingly relies on money generated through it to fund education. Louisiana is facing a $750 million shortfall in the budget that begins July 1 and is required to fund K-12 education at a certain level, regardless of whether the money comes from the lottery or comes at the expense of other services.
Since it was created in 1991, the lottery has averaged about a $126.9 million return to the state. Last year, $184 million went to K-12 education from lottery revenues.
Mississippi legislators have long eyed a lottery as a potential source of revenue that could be tapped, but the state’s powerful casino industry has thwarted past attempts there.
This week, though, the Mississippi House successfully amended legislation in an attempt to set up a lottery there. The bill still faces a difficult hurdle in the Senate, but could pose a threat to a vital source of Louisiana education funding if it’s successful.
By law, at least 35 percent of the Louisiana Lottery’s revenue has to go to the state. “That’s the highest of any lottery in the country,” Louisiana Lottery spokeswoman Kimberly Chopin said.
And it’s bolstered when Powerball jackpots reach headline-grabbing levels and more tickets are sold.
Several Mississippi legislators have pointed, anecdotally at least, to the number of people who buy tickets in border states that have lotteries, like Louisiana, to back up their argument for the state creating its own.
“There is so much carnage just from people driving across state lines to get tickets,” Mississippi Rep. Steve Holland said, according to an Associated Press article on the effort. “It’s time to give people what they want, and what they want is a lottery.”
Texas to the west of Louisiana and Arkansas to the north both have lotteries, but Mississippi has long held out from creating one there.
The lottery doesn’t track where players are from but has to gather residency information on jackpots of more than $600. For just those winnings, about 92 percent were residents of Louisiana and slightly more than 5 percent were from Mississippi, Chopin said, though she cautioned that the figures won’t be an exact correlation to how many out-of-state players the lottery draws.
“People play in different areas based on different factors,” she said.
A Mississippi legislator backing the creation of a lottery there claimed that it could bring in up to $100 million a year.
But Louisiana Lottery officials aren’t sounding alarms just yet.
“Regardless of where our players come from, our goal is to provide a product that is fun and exciting,” Chopin said. “No matter who plays that they have a good time, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.
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