The wait is over, MS Lottery ticket sales begin

By JAMES PHILLIPS,

The long wait for the Mississippi Lottery to start is now over. On Monday excited customers around the state waited in long early morning lines to purchase their first ever Mississippi lottery tickets.

Lottery scratch off tickets went on sale to the public at 5:00 a.m. Monday morning and the long-awaited day was met with thousands of happy Mississippi lottery players.

The Louisiana Lottery sold its first lotto tickets on September 6, 1991, and since that date anyone in Central Mississippi who wanted to purchase a lottery ticket had but one option, gas up the car and head out of state. They had to travel across the Mighty Mississippi River to Louisiana to partake in the lottery.

Nearly three decades later, Mississippi is officially a lottery state and those long drives to neighboring states will no longer be required to simply buy a lottery ticket. Now patrons can travel to their nearest Mississippi Lottery retailers located in their own cities, towns and neighborhoods.

Prior to Monday, Mississippi was one of six states without a lottery, but lawmakers met and changed that in 2018. The Mississippi Legislature approved a bill that authorized the state lottery and the state lottery commission in order to generate additional income for highways and schools.

Only scratch off tickets are currently available for purchase, and those include tickets that cost $1, $2 and $3. However, the Mississippi Lottery Corporation said the Multi-State Lottery Association has approved Mississippi for Powerball and Mega Millions and those tickets are expected to go on sale by the end of January 2020. 

Vicky Weems, of Harperville, has regularly played the lottery for years and said the is glad she will no longer have to drive out-of-state to purchase tickets.

“I have been driving over to Louisiana for years to buy my tickets,” she said. “I would make a special trip every time the Powerball or Mega Millions was big amounts and I would usually be the one in Louisiana buying tickets for 10 to 20 people. I’m so excited we are finally going to have the lottery here, I’m going to be one of the first people in line to buy a ticket Monday morning.”

Unlike many states, you will not be required to purchase lottery tickets with cash only here in Mississippi. Customers will be allowed to purchase any lottery ticket with a debit or credit card without having to pay any additional fees.

Any Mississippian that is a lucky winner will have 90 days to claim their lottery winnings. Any amount under $599 can be redeemed at the approved lottery retailer where the ticket was purchased. Any amount totaling $600 or more, the winner is required to either mail their ticket to the Mississippi Lottery headquarters or physically delivery the winning ticket to headquarters.

At the Red Apple Texaco in Forest the staff was busy with lottery customers as soon as tickets went on sale Monday morning. Tynezia Martin said they had customers coming in for lottery tickets constantly.

“We had a line of customers here to buy lottery tickets more than once this morning,” she said. “We have sold a lot of tickets and it seemed like as soon as we finished with one line of customers, we would get hit with another group that was ready to buy some tickets.”

Martin went on to say that a vast majority of lotto customers bought multiple tickets when they visited the store. “Most people were buying at least three or more tickets at a time. I even had a few customers that bought ten or more,” she added. “I really think a lot of people were really happy that we can finally sell tickets here at home”

The Mississippi Lottery Corporation reported that lotto tickets went on sale at 5:00 a.m. in approximately 1,200 retail locations Monday morning, and that the proceeds had already exceeded $300,000 by 10 a.m.

With the arrival of November 25, Mississippi is now among 44 other states to have a state sanctioned lottery. Proceeds from the sale of every ticket will go towards the state’s infrastructure and education.

Through June 30, 2028, the first $80 million each year from lottery revenue will go directly to the Mississippi Highway Fund which will repair renovate and maintain state highways and bridges. The rest of the revenue will go to the Education Enhancement Fund.