History of the Mississippi Lottery
After much debate and campaigning, Mississippi is finally due to get its own Lotto after lawmakers passed a bill in August 2018 to create a new state lottery. This was just the latest development in many years of Mississippi lottery history. Catch up on how we got to this moment by following the timeline below.
- July 1803: Plans for Mississippi’s first ever lottery were announced, the proceeds from which would fund the recently-established Jefferson College. The lottery gained little interest from the Mississippian public and in May 1805 the idea was abandoned and tickets refunded.
- February 1867: The legislature created the ‘Mississippi Agricultural and Manufacturing Aid Society’ and authorized the organization to conduct lotteries in the state for a period of 25 years.
- December 1869: The third iteration of Mississippi’s constitution prohibited the authorization of lotteries in the state. “The legislature shall never authorize any lottery, nor shall the sale of lottery tickets be allowed, nor shall any lottery heretofore authorized be permitted to be drawn, or tickets therein to be sold”, it declared.
- July 1870: The constitutional ban was backed up by an act entitled: ‘An Act enforcing the provisions of the Constitution of the State of Mississippi, prohibiting all kinds of lotteries within said State, and making it unlawful to conduct one in this State.'
- May 1880: The Supreme Court ruled on a protracted legal battle fought between Mississippi State and John Stone, the director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Manufacturing Aid Society, who argued that the constitutional lottery ban impaired the obligation of the 1867 contract awarded to his organization. The court ruled in the state’s favor and the ban was upheld. Chief Justice Waite delivered the opinion of the court, stating that: “[Lotteries] are a species of gambling, and wrong in their influences.” He added: “Certainly the right to suppress them is governmental, to be exercised at all times by those in power, at their discretion.”
- November 1890: A new version of the Mississippi Constitution – and the one currently still in effect – was adopted on November 1st 1890. It carried forward the lottery ban from the previous constitution.
- June 1990: Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus proposed a constitutional amendment to repeal the long-standing lottery ban, with plans to use the proceeds from the lottery to fund educational reform in the state. The proposal was rejected in the Senate by a vote of 28-23. The Governor’s lobbying for the lottery is said to have contributed to his defeat in the following year’s gubernatorial elections.
- November 1992: Lawmakers finally repealed the constitution’s lottery ban, allowing bills to be introduced to propose the formation of a lottery in the state of Mississippi. Lotteries, however, were still illegal. Section 97-33-31 of the Mississippi legal code stated: “If any person, in order to raise money for himself or another, or for any purpose whatsoever, shall publicly or privately put up a lottery to be drawn or adventured for, he shall, on conviction, be imprisoned in the penitentiary not exceeding five years.”
- February 2016: An amendment to a bill to allow the formation of a state lottery died in commission. Another amendment was proposed in April 2016 but suffered the same fate. These were the first state lottery bills to be proposed since the constitutional ban was repealed over twenty years prior.
- April 2017: Mississippi Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn, an opponent of state lottery plans, formed the ‘Mississippi House Lottery Study Working Group’ to “gather information to show that the lottery is not the windfall that all its supporters claim it will be.” The commission met regularly over the subsequent six months to discuss the pros and cons of introducing a lottery. “The intent of the group”, it said, “is not to make a recommendation, but to find the facts.”
- January 2018: A bill to create a state lottery was passed in the House but did not get past the Senate. The bill stated that all the proceeds from the sale of lottery tickets would fund education in Mississippi.
- March 2018: House Representative Alyce Clarke introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 2976, which set the budget for the Mississippi Gaming Commission, stating that no more money would be added to the budget in the year beginning July 1st until a state lottery is enacted. The amended bill passed 88-26.
- August 2018: Governor Phil Bryant called a special session to vote on the matter of introducing a state lottery in Mississippi. The bill was defeated in the first House vote, but passed in a do-over vote 24 hours later. Governor Bryant signed the bill on August 31st, and supporters claimed it would take up to a year to get the lottery operational. Proceeds from the lottery will primarily go towards funding infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, and any excess will be used to fund education in the state.
- October 2018: A five-person committee was appointed to the Mississippi Lottery board by Governor Phil Bryant, forming the new Mississippi Lottery Corporation.
- April 2019: The Mississippi Lottery adopted a set of ethics rules, outlining how it would remain transparent once it became operational.
- May 2019: Thomas Shaheen was hired as the president of the Mississippi Lottery Corporation. A prospective launch date of November 2019 was announced, with retailers throughout the state invited to apply to sell tickets so that background checks could begin.