Alabama Lottery Bill Dead

by Jim Hall

Alabama StateThe state of Alabama will not be offering a lottery after legislation dies after being voted down in the Senate.

For years, residents in the state of Alabama have wanted access to the lottery. Alabama is one of just a handful of states that does not provide a state lottery. Residents will travel to Tennessee or purchase lottery tickets while on vacation just to have the chance to take part. It seemed that the lottery might have a chance as of the past few days when legislation was able to pass through the House but unfortunately the Senate voted the measure down and the lottery is back to square one.

The History of the Lottery and Alabama

Alabama is easily considered one of the most conservative states in the US. The state bases many decisions on religious or conservative values. Overall, many legislators as well as residents feel that gambling is a big no-no based on religious principles. The last time the lottery was even remotely a consideration in the state was back in 1999 when then Democratic Governor Don Siegelman decided to propose a lottery, one that would have provided much-needed funds for an Education Trust Fund. Voters were not in approval, with 54% in opposition and 46% in favor.

This Time Around

Many residents were surprised when Governor Robert Bentley decided to announce he was considering a state lottery. Bentley created legislation to allow a lottery to take place with the revenues earned going towards the General Fund. Residents were not happy about this portion of the measure as many want to see funds going specifically towards education.

While Bentley planned a special session with lawmakers, Senator Jim McClendon decided to create a piece of legislation of his own. This time, the legislation would offer a state lottery along with video lottery terminals at the states dog tracks. This measure also put $100 million of revenues towards education in the state.

Unfortunately, lawmakers were on opposite sides of the fence. Some lawmakers wanted to see the legislation pass, while others did not want to see VLTs included while still some wanted nothing to do with gambling.

Voting Results

A few days ago, the House was able to approve the online lottery measure of Bentley’s. This measure then moved on to the Senate where it was voted down 24-7. After the vote, during a press conference, Senator Jim McClendon, stated that the lottery bill for the 2016 special session is dead. The people of Alabama have been denied the right to vote on the lottery after making it clear they would like the opportunity to do so.

If the measure had passed, a state-sponsored lottery would have been set up with revenues used in the General fund. Many felt the money should be used for education, Medicaid, prisons and other needs. Bentley also commented on the vote during a press conference by stating that as a doctor and governor of the state he cannot accept the outcome. Bentley stated that one of the things the government has to do for the state is to help people who cannot take care of themselves.

Those in opposition of the lottery have argued that the state should have the option to make the necessary cuts to funding Medicaid or to adopt a new system that will ear-mark the restrictions on certain revenue that would be removed.

For now, Alabama remains one of only six states in the US that does not have a lottery to use for government revenues. It will be interesting to see if the subject of the lottery continues to be brought up and if the state will ever be able to offer such gaming options in the future.