As state lawmakers begin the second half of the 2024 Regular Session, the future for a state lottery vote in Alabama is still up-in-the-air.

While Alabama’s lawmakers debate the issue, mega bucks are flowing to all the states surrounding Alabama. “We have had Alabama people in here all day,” the person who answered the phone at the Love’s Travel Shop on Tuscaloosa Road in Meridian replied when asked if she has seen a lot of people from across the state line buying lottery tickets today.

Today and tomorrow will draw a lot of trips to Mississippi. With no grand prize winner from Friday night's Mega Millions drawing, tonight’s jackpot now is worth an estimated $875 million with a cash value of $413.5 million.

Meanwhile, the Powerball jackpot for Wednesday is up to an estimated $687 million with a cash value of $327.3 million after there was no grand prize winner from Monday's drawing.

On any given day lottery sellers in Columbus and Meridian MS report dozens of people driving vehicles with Alabama plates crossing the state line to buy the various types of lottery tickets, especially scratch off instant winners. And when the MEGA Millions and Powerball jackpots rise into the hundreds of millions there is always a steady stream of Alabamians coming to town hoping to hit it big. Most don’t but there are winners.

Annually some $80 million from the Magnolia State’s lottery goes to support infrastructure maintenance and improvement. Another $80 million or so goes to education across the state. According to the Mississippi Lottery’s annual report, for fiscal year 2023, total gross sales for the Mississippi Lottery Corporation eclipsed $467 million. That profit is split between infrastructure, education, the state general fund and the company that operates the lottery.

The state’s profit has resulted in funding an Early Childhood Learning Collaborative, the Classroom Supply Fund, and other educational purposes such as hiring new teachers. Because of the lottery, teachers no longer have to take money from their hard-earned paycheck to purchase classroom supplies.

Alabama is one of just five states without a lottery (Utah, Alaska, Hawaii and Nevada are the other four). So, Alabamians who want a chance to win have to get in their car and drive to either Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia or Florida. That means millions of Alabama dollars are flowing out of state to support their schools and highways.

Before heading out for spring break, the Alabama Senate advanced a scaled-back gambling proposal — allowing state lottery and electronic wagering machines at several locations in the state -- as lawmakers tried to strike a compromise that can win the needed votes in both chambers. Because that legislation did not match the bills past earlier in the house, they are now back in the lower chamber which must decide whether to concur, ask for a conference committee to work out the differences or just kill the idea.

Lawmakers in both chambers admit they have no clue what will happen with the lottery save to say powerful special interests are fighting to stop it.  Rep. Chris Blackshear told reporters during an impromptu press conference, “In the House, we decided to allow everybody to catch their breath and get their feet back underneath them because it’s been such a frenzy of the first half of the legislative session.”  The Smith’s Station Republican sponsored the bill in the House. He says bill sponsors and leadership will get together this week to plan their strategy.

More From 95.3 The Bear