Alabama Lottery Legislation Falters

by Jim Hall

Governor Robert BentleyGovernor Robert Bentley of Alabama has proposed a measure that would see the state finally begin to offer lottery gaming. On Wednesday, the legislation failed to advance within the Senate due to division among lawmakers.

Alabamians have been waiting and waiting and waiting to see lottery gaming finally offered in the state. For most residents of the state, the lottery is played in nearby states including Tennessee, in the hopes of winning a big jackpot. Alabama lawmakers tend to lean more towards the conservative side and do not want to provide gambling to residents within the state. Legislation was finally put forward, by Governor Robert Bentley of all people, a few weeks ago but has suddenly stalled within the Senate.

What’s the Holdup?

A special session was called by Bentley to discuss the proposed state lottery but the idea quickly hit a stalling point. Senators are divided as to what should take place in regards to gaming. The legislation actually contains language that would allow slot machine gaming options at the state dog tracks. Some are opposed to this while others are opposed to gambling overall.

Del Marsh, the Senate President Pro Tem, stated yesterday that the lottery bill did not have the votes needed to pass within the senate. The vote count failed to grow during the day as the special session took place. 21 votes were needed to see the measure move forward. According to Marsh, you have those who are totally against gambling altogether while others are concerned about who gets the gaming options if they are included.

The Bentley Backed Bill

The proposal backed by Bentley would authorized a state lottery for Alabama and send the money earned to the state general fund. A rival bill was created and would allow the lottery but also include electronic lottery terminals to be placed at the dog tracks of the state, of which there are four. On Wednesday, senators argued the point of dog tracks before deciding to give up and move on to other issues. According to Marsh, the debate will continue today.

Serious or Not Serious?

Lawmakers were brought to the special session yesterday by Bentley to debate the proposed lottery to try and help the state’s Medicaid program. The lottery bill coming to the floor of the Senate is the first time since 1999 that the lottery has seriously been considered within the state. Governor Don Siegelman proposed the lottery back in 1999 but was unable to see any movement with the measure.

Senator Dick Brewbaker stated that there are divisions of people who will only vote for a clean lottery while others will only vote for a lottery plus everything else. According to Brewbaker, there are nine lawmakers who think the state should not sponsor a vice at all.

Senator Bobby Singleon stated that he is support of the dog track bill as it would provide additional revenues to the state and jobs for the tracks. According to Singleton, the video lottery terminal machines will provide a higher percentage of revenues than just the lottery.

Bentley has estimated that a lottery would bring in $225 million for the state. Senator Jim McClendon, the lawmaker responsible for the VLT legislation, has stated that his bill would bring in $400 million with $100 which would be used for education.

Education is a big deal within the potential for the lottery. Bentley’s bill does not designate funds for the education of the state but for the general fun. McClendon’s bill at least puts some money into the education area of the state which has struggled for decades.

For the state of Alabama to be able to add a lottery, at least three-fifths of legislators will have to approve gambling legislation. Voters will also have to approve a change to the constitution to see the lottery come to fruition.