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Mississippi Lottery gears up for its first ticket sales

November 23, 2019 GMT
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In this Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, photo, Kadaisha Haymer works the cash register as an electronic sign flashes reminders that as of Monday, Nov. 25, customers can purchase scratch-off lottery tickets at this RaceWay store in Jackson, Miss. The store is one of many locations statewide that will be offering scratch-off games. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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In this Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, photo, Kadaisha Haymer works the cash register as an electronic sign flashes reminders that as of Monday, Nov. 25, customers can purchase scratch-off lottery tickets at this RaceWay store in Jackson, Miss. The store is one of many locations statewide that will be offering scratch-off games. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi residents have been driving to Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee for years to buy lottery tickets. They will soon be able to spend that money closer to home.

The Mississippi Lottery starts selling tickets for the first time Monday morning. Nearly 1,200 convenience stores and other sites have been approved as retailers.

Elisa Reed, owner of Woody’s general store in the tiny town of Noxapater, said a lottery ticket machine was installed at the store more than a week ago, generating buzz among customers.

“Everybody’s been talking about it, and everybody’s really excited,” Reed said.

People stop at Woody’s to fill their gas tanks and pick up coffee or cigarettes, and they can get a full breakfast beginning at 1 a.m.

Lottery tickets go on sale at 5 a.m. Monday. “I think they’ll be in line to buy them,” Reed said.

For the first two months, the only scratch-off tickets sold in Mississippi will be for single-state games.

The multistate games Powerball and Mega Millions will be available in Mississippi starting Jan. 30.

Mississippi has been one of six states without a lottery, and it remained that way for decades because of opposition from politically powerful churches.

As the state was forced to close hundreds of unsafe bridges in 2018, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant called lawmakers into special session and asked them to authorize a lottery to generate money. The first $80 million a year will go to highways, and revenue after that will go to education.

Democratic state Rep. Alyce Clarke of Jackson pushed for years to create a lottery. The Mississippi Lottery Corporation is having an event where Clarke will buy the ceremonial first ticket Monday morning at a convenience store in south Jackson.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.