Lottery supporters in the Mississippi House snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Wednesday, leaving only one bill that could be used to create the statewide game of chance.
The defeat happened when House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, ruled that a lottery amendment could be considered as part of House Bill 967, a measure to regulate and set a tax on wagering on daily fantasy sports.
House members used a loud voice vote on the lottery amendment, and Gunn said the amendment passed. But fortunes immediately reversed when lottery supporters demanded a roll call to show the position of individual House members. The amendment failed with 40 votes in favor and 74 against — and the disappointment was clear on the faces of many lottery supporters. The fantasy sports bill itself failed in a separate vote.
Going into Wednesday, three bills had potential as lottery legislation.
In addition to the fantasy sports bill, there was House Bill 819, a measure to increase prize money for charity bingo. Democratic Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville tried to add a lottery amendment to it, but Gunn ruled Wednesday that the amendment violated House rules because it was not relevant to the bill.
The lone remaining lottery proposal faces a Thursday deadline, and it’s unclear whether it will come up for a vote because it is at the end of a long list of other bills for the House to debate.
House Bill 804 originally dealt with determining whether criminal defendants are mentally competent to stand trial. The House Judiciary A Committee rewrote it last week to create a lottery at the urging of the committee chairman, Republican Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon. Because the committee made such a significant change, the revised bill could also be subject to questions about relevance under the House rules.
No lottery bills are pending in the Senate.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said during his State of the State address Jan. 17 that Mississippi should consider a lottery as state tax collections fall short of expectations.
Gunn is a leader in his local Baptist church and has been a longtime opponent of expanding gambling in a state that legalized casinos years before he took office.
Mississippi is one of six states without a lottery, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Several proposals to create a lottery have died during the past two decades, usually with little or no debate in the Legislature. Bryant has been elected with the support of conservative religious groups that oppose the games of chance, but he said several months ago that he would be open to discussion about the issue.