Alabama Lottery Bill ‘Dead For 2019 Session’

Thursday May 23rd 2019

Alabama will remain without a lottery for at least another year after backers of a bill admitted defeat in the latest legislative session. A vote had been set to take place in the House of Representatives, but was scrapped when it became clear that it lacked the required support to win approval.

Discussions over a lottery in the Yellowhammer State have surfaced regularly over the last couple of decades, and an important step was taken last month when the Senate passed a bill sponsored by Republican Greg Albritton.

The bill was carried into the House of Representatives by House Ways and Means General Fund chair Steve Clouse. A planned vote on Tuesday was initially put back until Wednesday, but Clouse later abandoned his efforts. He said: “It’s dead for this session. It won’t be coming back this session.”

The bill required 63 votes in the House, and Speaker Mac McCutcheon said on Wednesday that there were only 47 Republicans who appeared to be firmly behind the proposal. It was also thought that not enough Democrats would back the bill to get it over the line. Even if it had won approval in the House, the public would have had to vote in favor of a lottery at next year’s Presidential primary.

Why Did The Bill Die?

As with previous attempts to introduce a lottery, there were a couple of factors which prevented the bill from clearing the House. One was linked to distribution of revenue, as the proposal had involved giving 75 percent of the proceeds to the General Fund and 25 percent to the Education Trust Fund (ETF).

Some members felt that more of the revenue should go to education, while they wanted the money earmarked for the General Fund to be more clearly defined. House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, for example, wanted a portion to go towards Medicaid expansion. He said: “I needed some clarity and some specific on what our tax dollars would go toward.”

The other main issue was the proposed format of the lottery, as the bill would have limited the lottery to paper-based games. While some Republican members oppose any form of legal gambling, there are Democrats who felt the bill did not go far enough and wanted it to include electronic gaming machines.

There are major dog tracks and casinos at locations such as VictoryLand and GreeneTrack, which already have gaming machines. Legislators in Macon County and Greene County had wanted the lottery to incorporate these machines so that it could be more widely played. Clouse explained that many Republicans would never be able to get on board with such plans, saying: “They wanted our clean lottery and not include the machines. Obviously their local bills were not going to pass.”

Supporters of a lottery in Alabama must now consider whether they wish to renew their efforts in future. Fans of games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, meanwhile, will have to cross the border to play in other states.

Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah are the only other states without their own lottery. Mississippi’s lottery is set to launch later in 2019 after legislation was passed last year.

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