All voices deserve to be heard on lottery in Mississippi

Published 10:07 pm Monday, November 27, 2017

There are many voices in the state’s discussions about a lottery. Lawmakers, at least some, appear to be in favor of it. Others are adamantly opposed.

The House committee weighing the pros and cons of a lottery had its final hearing earlier this month. In a news story that aired ahead of that hearing, it was reported that several religious groups declined to speak at the hearing.

But that’s not accurate, according to the Mississippi Baptist Convention’s Christian Action Commission. The leader of that group, Kenny Digby, said in a letter printed in the Baptist Record that his group was not invited but would have spoken against the lottery if given the opportunity.

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Digby even went to the final meeting after hearing that Baptists had supposedly declined to attend and tried to speak. Digby says he was denied that opportunity by Rep. Richard Bennett, the chairman of the commission studying a lottery.

Digby wrote that the Christian Action Commission is opposed to a state lottery and gambling in any form. “We are present and ready to give our opinion,” Digby says he told Bennett.

Digby says he wasn’t allowed to speak because he was not on the list of those invited to speak.

There are many opinions when it comes to a state lottery and they all need to be heard by the people who will help decide the fate of a lottery.

Bennett no doubt knew the stand of Digby’s group, but claiming they declined the opportunity to speak seems dishonest. Attempting to silence opinions in this matter is not in the best interest of the state.

Will a lottery solve the state’s financial problems? Probably not. It might even cause some financial challenges. State Economist Darrin Webb told the group that a lottery “would create a slight decrease in total economic activity within the state.”

Webb said economic research is fairly clear that a lottery would bring a decrease in retail sales, which would reduce employment, income and gross domestic product over time, according to the Clarion Ledger.

Regardless of your views on a lottery, we should agree that all concerned parties should be heard. Silencing a group whose views likely mirror many in Mississippi is just plain wrong.