The Mississippi House decided to reverse a previous decision and passed a bill on Tuesday that will allow the creation of a state lottery.
Mississippi is a Bible Belt state and a potential state lottery has faced a history of opposition from churches.
The vote was held in a special session a day after the House voted to snuff the bill.
Mississippi is one of just six states that do not have a lottery and there has been pressure from Governor Phil Bryant to create one.
The Governor Bryant took to Twitter to announce his approval and said that it was a historic day in the state and gave legislators a pat on their backs for standing up when it mattered. Supporters of the lottery said that it should be up and running in about a year.
This is a historic day in Mississippi. Lawmakers rose to the occasion and passed the last part of a sustainable infrastructure funding mechanism that will also provide additional money for public education.
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) August 28, 2018
The controversial bill had plenty of opposition from Baptist and Pentecostal groups as well as others who referred to a state lottery as a “regressive tax on the poor”. Mississippi’s casino lobby was not against the implementation of a lottery but they were not in favor of a failed bid to introduce video lottery terminals (VLTs) in locations such as truck stops.
Bryant argued that Mississippi’s four neighbouring states have lotteries and that Mississippi residents buy millions of dollars’ worth of lottery tickets from them every year. The lottery bill initially passed the Senate but failed in the House by a 60-54 margin. A day later, 58 voted in favour while 54 opposed it.
State In Dire Need Of Funding
During the special session, Bryant has been pleading with lawmakers to invest millions of dollars into highways and bridges citing that over 400 bridges in Mississippi are currently closed because they are in a state of disrepair. The Department of Transportation claims that at least $400 million is needed annually to prevent Mississippi’s highways from crumbling.
Proponents of the lottery say that it could add about $40 million to the state’s dwindling coffers in the first year and that number could rise to $80 million in the years that follow.
Republican Representative Bill Denny claimed that he has been against creating a lottery for over 20 years but changed his mind because that is what the majority of his constituents wanted. Denny said that every time he goes to the grocery store he is hounded by people who tell him that a lottery is badly needed.