Mississippi's Economy Falters as the Lottery Beckons

Mississippi's Economy Falters as the Lottery BeckonsMississippi’s casino market may have seen its revenue rise by 1 percent to $2.12 billion in 2016, but that figure is still significantly lower than the $2.89 billion the state collected in 2007. Furthermore, business has continued to decline this year, with casino revenue currently down by 2.5 percent statewide for the first nine months of 2017.
September’s results added to an already poor performance by the state’s coastal and river casinos, with the $167 million generated statewide from its gambling venues lower by almost 3 percent versus the $171 million collected during the same year in 2016.
From that tally, the Magnolia State’s 12 coastal casinos saw their business fall by 3 percent to $95 million, marking four consecutive months of decline, while Mississippi’s 16 river casinos were down by 2 percent to $71 million compared to the $73 million collected in September of 2016.
Mississippi’s falling casino numbers seems to be indicative of the state’s overall financial malaise in which economic output and employment is still lower than it was back in 2008, while out-migration rates continue to increase. In fact, one has to dial the clock back to the 1990s to note any real strong growth in the state, which was a pioneering time when a casino boom elevated Mississippi’s growth rate above that of the national economy.
For years, State Economist Dr. Darrin Webb has been warning that Mississippi’s recovery following the Great Recession has been one of the worst in the nation”. Case in point, the expected state spending of $6 billion this year is around $800 million less than it should have been had spending kept up with the rate of inflation since 2010.
This has led some to believe that following 25 years of legalized casino gambling, the state is now warming to the idea of introducing a state lottery to raise much-needed revenues. Currently, Mississippi is just one of six US states without a lottery, resulting in a significant amount of money leaving the state each month as residents travel to neighboring states such as Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana to buy their lottery tickets.
In the past, religious groups have stood in the way of legislative progress on the issue, but recently more and more of the population and lawmakers are beginning to realize that introducing a lottery may help alleviate at least some part of the state’s financial woes. As Attorney General Jim Hood (photo), explains:
“I’m a Baptist. You know us Baptist don’t believe in gambling.. But I have to be a realist. The Legislature is not passing any revenue (tax increase). That (lottery revenue) is money available for education – should be spent on education.”

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