Lottery tickets will go on sale next week in Mississippi a short 15 months after the legislature legalized a state lottery in the 2018 special session. 

Mississippians will be able to purchase scratch-off tickets beginning on November 25 at one of more than 1,200 retailers statewide. Power Ball and Mega Millions tickets, the multi-state games known for big payouts that have at times surpassed $1 billion, will go on sale later in 2020. 

But you need to be older in Mississippi than most other states to purchase lottery tickets. The minimum age is 21. Arizona, Iowa, and Louisiana are the only other states that require you to be 21 to buy tickets. You have to be 19 in Nebraska. Every other state sets 18 as the age minimum. 

That includes Arkansas and Tennessee. Mississippi’s other neighbor, Alabama, is one five states that do not have a state lottery. 

The bulk of lottery profits in Mississippi – the first $80 million – will be directed toward infrastructure projects. Additional money will go toward education, which is traditionally the primary funding recipient from most lotteries.

Mississippi took a long and windy road toward a lottery

In 1992, voters in Mississippi cleared the way for a lottery by amending the state constitution to allow for a lottery, but there was little interest from the legislature over the next two plus decades. Especially with the creation of casinos along the Coast and Mississippi River and the revenue that gaming promised. 

But that changed in 2018. For years, stories regularly ran of Mississippians crossing state lines to purchase lottery tickets as jackpots crept up. Popular support appeared to be on the side of a lottery. Many Republicans were outspoken in their support. And Gov. Phil Bryant came out in favor of a lottery and it became a solution for more transportation funding. And in August of last year, the legislature legalized a lottery in Mississippi. 

But even that wasn’t easy. The House initially voted against the lottery conference report in a bipartisan vote of 61 opposed and 53 in favor. Legislators got another stab at it and it passed the House 58 to 54 on the second vote. It was an odd-looking board with the speaker and speaker pro tempore voting against it, but in the end the bill was adopted. 

And Mississippians will soon be buying lottery tickets. If they’re 21.