Mississippi casino owners OK with state lottery, opposed to video gambling in bars and gas stations

Published 8:53 am Friday, November 17, 2017

Casino owners in Mississippi aren’t opposed to the idea of a paper-ticket state lottery, but say video gambling terminals in bars, gas stations and other places would be devastating for the gaming industry.
The Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association, which represents all state-regulated casinos, voiced the concern at the Capitol Thursday. The association’s director, Larry Gregory, told members of a lottery study commission that passing legislation for video lottery terminals (VLTs) would be “equivalent to the industry suffering a natural disaster,” according to the Associated Press.
Gregory cited Illinois’ implementation of VLTs in 2012, saying annual gross revenue among the state’s casinos has dropped almost 14 percent since then.
See also | Column: Playing the lottery long shot
Mississippi is one of a handful of states without a lottery, something lawmakers and residents have become more vocal about in recent years given the state’s funding needs. Mississippians spend an estimated $35 million to $40 million a year playing the lotteries in Louisiana and Arkansas, according to State Economist Darrin Webb. The lottery study commission, appointed by House Speaker Philip Gunn, is charged with researching how other states regulate gambling.
Webb estimated a lottery would generate more than $100 million for the state’s general fund, noting that the resulting decline in retail sales tax collections would be around $20 million.
Other concerns voiced Thursday about implementing a lottery or VLTs included gambling addiction (specifically whether the state will provide adequate resources for helping problem gamblers) and how it could potentially impact those who can least afford to participate.

“Mississippi is already plagued by people making poor choices, including decisions about their health, family planning and educational training,” Webb said. “A Mississippi lottery means the state will be investing in and encouraging individuals who have limited incomes to make poor financial decisions.”

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