- Associated Press - Monday, March 18, 2019

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The new Mississippi Lottery could start selling tickets sometime during the final half of this year, a board member for the Mississippi Lottery Corporation said Monday.

Gerard Gibert told The Associated Press that the board in recent weeks has hired the Balch & Bingham law firm, which has offices in Mississippi and other states.

He said the board will soon start the process of choosing banking services and hiring a president to run the day-to-day business of the corporation.

Gibert said the Mississippi Lottery will have to apply to become part of multistate games that offer big-dollar prizes, including Powerball. He said he hopes the application process can be completed and Mississippi can be accepted by early next year.

Mississippi lawmakers met in special session in August and voted to create a lottery to generate money for transportation.

Mississippi had been one of six states without a lottery, and churches were longtime opponents to the game of chance in the Bible Belt state.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant was elected in 2011 and 2015 with the support of evangelicals. He started advocating creation of a lottery more than a year lawmakers approved it. More than 430 local bridges were closed with structural problems at the time of the special session, and the state transportation department has long said it needs hundreds of millions more dollars.

Bryant pointed out that Mississippi residents drive to Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee to buy millions of dollars of lottery tickets each year.

The lottery bill was opposed by politically powerful Baptist and Pentecostal groups and some people who called it a regressive tax on poor people in one of the poorest states in the U.S. The state’s influential casino lobby did not oppose a lottery but fought some lawmakers’ ultimately unsuccessful efforts to allow video lottery terminals in places such as truck stops.

Bryant nominated Gerard and the other four lottery corporation board members in October. By early April, state senators will consider whether to confirm the nominees.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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