Alabama Lottery Bill Blocked

Wednesday August 24th 2016

Supporters campaigning for the creation of a lottery in Alabama suffered a blow yesterday when the state’s House of Representatives refused to allow a special meeting to be held that could have led the way for the legislation to be put to the vote in November. Governor Robert Bentley, who proposed the bill as a way of raising vital funds for the state, said he would not give up on the plan even though it cannot now be passed before today’s deadline.

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The House was in favor of the “leave of house” meeting taking place by a majority of 59 to 33, but needed a four-fifths vote to make it happen. These requests are usually granted on voice votes, but lottery opponent Rep Ken Johnson took the unusual step of demanding an official roll call vote, which did not give the authority for the meeting. Johnson cited concerns the bill was being rushed as the reason behind his decision.

If the proposal is to become a reality, there would have to be a special election during the special session to enable it to be put before voters in the Yellowhammer state, although the bill’s sponsor Rep Alan Harper admitted he didn’t know whether that was likely. A public hearing will be held today at 4pm CDT.

Governor Bentley had made an impassioned plea for the introduction of an Alabama state lottery, calling it the “one best option” to boost the general fund and bridge the Medicaid funding gap. The Legislature threw out plans for tax rises in 2015 and Gov Bentley insisted that a lottery could pay for the health program “for at least several years”. Responding to critics of lotteries who branded them “immoral”, he asked, “which is the most immoral: buying five lottery tickets with money you earned or allowing a child to die?”

Of the 50 U.S. states, only Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah do not currently have a lottery. The 46 that do play games like Powerball and Mega Millions each use a proportion of the ticket revenue to fund projects within their jurisdiction and some also levy state taxes on big winners.

The Florida Lottery regularly donates more than £1 billion a year to education programs, including creating college scholarships and funding renovations to school buildings. In Connecticut, 28 cents of every dollar spent on lottery tickets is directed to the state’s general fund, which is used to run libraries, education, public health initiatives and more.

Governor Bentley has stated a lottery in Alabama would achieve an annual revenue of around $225 million and bemoaned the fact that many Alabamians regularly crossed the border to play lotteries in neighboring states. He said, “It’s time we stop supporting other state’s budgets and keep our money at home to solve our own problems."

Bookmark the news pages and keep checking back to see the latest news on whether the Alabama lottery bill makes it to the public vote.

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