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So far, the Mississippi Lottery is exceeding expectations



Through a little more than two months of operation, Mississippi’s lottery has generated about $16 million in revenue for work on the state’s roads and bridges.

Thomas Shaheen, president of the Mississippi Lottery Corporation, speaking at a legislative hearing, recently estimated that during its first full fiscal year the lottery would generate $81 million in revenue for the state.

“We are very pleased with these early results,” Shaheen said recently. “Retailer and player support have been fantastic in our collective efforts to raise money for roads, bridges and education needs for the state of Mississippi.”

The Legislature approved the lottery during a 2018 August special session with the first $80 million in revenue to the state from the games earmarked for road and bridge needs on Mississippi highways. Any revenue generated over $80 million will be directed to education.

There was skepticism at the time of how much revenue a lottery would generate in Mississippi since the state was one of the last in the nation to approve a lottery, The states remaining without a lottery are Alabama, Alaska Utah, Nevada and Hawaii.

Shaheen told legislators that lottery sales are exceeding expectations. The lottery began on Nov. 25 with four scratch-off games. Now there are 16 scratch-off games. Powerball and Mega Millions – national drawing games – began Jan. 30.

The state is averaging about $10 million weekly in sales – making Mississippi sixth in the nation per capita in scratch-off sales.

There are almost 1,550 retailers across the state selling lottery tickets. In response to a question from legislators, Shaheen said that the state’s lottery laws do not prevent liquor stores from selling lottery tickets, but that laws regulating the liquor stores do prohibit them from participating.

The Lottery Corporation, created to oversee the lottery, currently is returning 58 percent of the money generated from sales to the customers as winnings. Shaheen said that is less than the national average and less than what the surrounding states are returning as winnings. The contiguous states are returning as much as 65 percent of their sales as winnings. As the Mississippi lottery matures, the goal will be to increase the percentage returned as winnings, officials said.

State law limits administrative costs at 15 percent of the total revenue. But that limit does not apply during the early stages of establishing a lottery since the Lottery Corporation had to take out a loan to begin operation. No state funds were allocated for the start-up costs. Shaheen said administrative costs currently are about 18 percent of sales.

Mississippi’s embrace of the lottery has been quick despite opposition from various religious groups.

During the 2016 session, then-Gov. Phil Bryant voiced his opposition to the lottery. But during the political speakings at the annual Neshoba County Fair in the summer of 2016, then-Attorney General Jim Hood, who would become the eventual Democratic nominee for governor in 2019, touted the lottery as a method to address some of the state’s revenue issues.

But in Bryant’s 2017 State of the State speech in January, he embraced the lottery and in August 2018 called a special session to enact a lottery and other measures to provide funds for the state’s crumbling infrastructure system.

Many say those measures are not producing enough money to address those road and bridge woes that have been estimated at $400 million annually. But the special session did take the lottery, which was generally viewed as popular with voters, off the table as an election issue for Hood in his unsuccessful 2019 bid for governor.

While state leaders viewed the lottery as a method to generate revenue without raising taxes, others have said there are negative consequences associated with a lottery, such as siphoning disposable income from other items.

A 2017 study by the state’s University Research Center said, “The economic literature almost unanimously finds lotteries are regressive for those who play; that is, lower-income individuals spend a larger percentage of their total income than higher-income individuals. Moreover, surveys have found lottery participants in lower-income brackets spend more total dollars per year on lottery purchases than participants in higher income brackets.”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.


High speed chase ends in fiery crash



(photo by David Day)

A high-speed chase Saturday evening that began near the Waffle House in Vicksburg has ended in a crash in Claiborne County and a vehicle in flames.

First reports indicate the incident began around 5:10 p.m. as an argument at the Waffle House at 4100 Pemberton Square Blvd. A man and woman left the scene and stopped at a Shell gas station on U.S. Highway 61 South where the man pulled the woman, who is pregnant, out of the vehicle by her hair.

The man, Bojara O’Quinn of Claiborne County, then fled, leading Vicksburg police officer Michael Battle on a high-speed chase south on 61 South. The chase exceeded 110 mph at times.

The chase ended just inside the Claiborne County line on Shiloh Road in a crash where the vehicle, reportedly a rental with Illinois plates, burst into flames. The crash occurred right at 5:30 p.m.

O’Quinn is in custody and received minor injuries in the crash. The woman involved received very minor injuries and is apparently safe.

Deputies with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department, and troopers with the Mississippi Highway Patrol assisted in O’Quinn’s capture.

Bojara O’Quinn (photo by David Day)

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Woman in custody for Friday’s shooting over a parking space



UPDATE: Akeyah Daniels, 26, of Vicksburg, appeared before Judge Penny Lawson on Saturday in Vicksburg Municipal Court. Lawson set her bond at $50,000 and bound her over to the Warren County grand jury.

Original story:

The woman is in custody in connection with a shooting that occurred Friday, allegedly over a parking space.

The shooting took place around 3:30 p.m. Friday at an apartment building at 2230 Grove St. in Vicksburg.

Akeyah Daniels, 26, turned herself in to Vicksburg police officers at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28. She was arrested at the police station.

Three men were also briefly detained and released in connection with the shooting, according to the Vicksburg police.

Daniels faces one count of drive-by shooting is being held without bond until her initial appearance, which is taking place Saturday.

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Vicksburg entrepreneurs got the basics of business ownership at boot camp



Kendra Reed and Willie Johnson were among the dozen entrepreneurs attending the Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp. (photos submitted)

Last week participants graduated from the first Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp where 12 individuals received information to start or expand their own businesses.

Myra Harris, who recently started a company making masks, joined the boot camp shortly after her grandchildren informed her of the opportunity.

“They provided all the resources you would need to start your business, and they also made themselves available after class just in case you had any questions,” Harris said.

Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp participants. Top L to R: Marcus Dufour (Vicksburg Warren Partnership), Tim Sanford, Cathy Sanford, Olivia Foshee, Amy Warren, Patricia Anderson, Willie Johnson, Myra Harris, Ginger Donahue (Regions Bank) and Pablo Diaz (Vicksburg Warren Partnership). Bottom L to R: Gwen Green, Kendra Reed, Rob Burnham (Instructor), De’Jonae Curtis and Anthony Curtis. Not pictured William Wooten. (photo courtesy Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce)

Retired businessman Rob Burnham facilitated the class and helped the participants plan out their businesses, assisting with marketing, accounting and distribution. Marcus Dufour and Pablo Diaz from the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce hosted the class, bringing in successful entrepreneurs as speakers including Kevin Roberts who owns Fit Chef Catering in Vicksburg.

“Every speaker gave us the opportunity to ask questions, and it definitely gave me the information I need to open a business, and I would recommend the class 100%,” said participant Willie Johnson.

Johnson was born and raised in Vicksburg. He’s now retired from the military and looking to launch a consulting business, which is what led him to attending the boot camp.

By having capable individuals at the boot camp such as James Harper from the Small Business Development Center at Hinds Community College, the participants were able to learn about available grants and other resources for entrepreneurs.

Starting a business can be stressful for first time entrepreneurs, but the boot camp provided planning advice to the participants, breaking down the information that participants need to launch their businesses.

“In the business process of starting and running a business, owners get very busy running the day-to-day aspects,” said boot camp participant Kendra Reed. “Entrepreneurship Bootcamp gave me the chance to step back and plan through the whole process to prepare my new company to be successful.”

Reed is the owner of Delta Dirt Shirt, and she was proud to be a graduating member of the camp.

Now that the camp has ended, the participants are in competition for a $1,000 seed grant for the best business plan presentation. A winner will be announced Dec. 8.

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