Alabama Moves One Step Closer To Introducing A Lottery

Friday April 26th 2019

Alabama has moved one step closer to becoming the next state to have its own lottery, after the Senate passed a bill by the finest of margins. The bill must now win approval in the House before it can be put on the ballot for voters in the March 2020 presidential primary.

Lawmakers have been debating the idea of a state lottery in Alabama for some time, and it was revealed earlier this month that two proposals were under consideration. Supporters argued that a lottery would be excellent for the local economy, and one of the bills has now cleared the first significant hurdle.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Greg Albritton, received 21 votes in favor and 12 against. As it was a proposed constitutional amendment, it required approval from three-fifths of the Senate, so the lottery’s chances would have been dashed if there had been even one less vote in support.

Albritton, who said he had fully anticipated it to be a ‘very, very close vote’, described himself as being ‘pleased, a little surprised, and grateful it’s over’.

What Would The Lottery Involve?

The bill had initially proposed a lottery with paper tickets only, but an amendment was added to allow tickets to be purchased electronically. There would be no video lottery games, with the bill specifically excluding ‘mobile or internet-based’ games or simulated casino games.

Albritton felt that a simple lottery was more likely to clear the Senate, and the rival bill from Republican Sen. Jim McClendon was not considered by the Committee in the end. McClendon’s idea included video lottery terminals at dog tracks in various locations across the state. He voted against Albritton’s bill and said his proposal would have raised more revenue.

Speaking about why they voted for Albritton’s bill, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said: “Not a lockdown or filibuster today. Amendments were offered. Some were received, some were not. The process worked exactly as it should have. And I’m excited that we’ve sent a bill to the House that I think they can work with, hopefully get it to the people for a vote in the next year.”

Still A Long Way To Go

The last time a state lottery came so close to being launched in Alabama was back in 2016, when the Senate passed a bill and so did the House, but complications cropped up after changes were made and it was ultimately scrapped.

Marsh hopes the same mistakes will be avoided this time, saying: “I think the danger is that if you try to pile anything on top of it other than the lottery I think It’s going to have problems.”

Even when a proposed lottery won approval in the Legislature back in 1999, it was rejected by voters. Opponents believe that lotteries target poor communities and can lead to an escalation in gambling.

However, lotteries have become far more widespread across the U.S. over the past 20 years and there are now just six states without their own lottery. Residents of these jurisdictions who see big jackpots on offer in games such as Powerball and Mega Millions can then travel elsewhere to buy tickets if they so choose, and so states without lotteries feel like they are missing out on vital dollars.

Albritton’s plan is for money raised from ticket sales of a lottery to go towards the Alabama General Fund, which would help valuable services throughout the state in sectors such as health and education.

The only other states currently without a lottery are Utah, Alaska, Hawaii and Nevada. A Mississippi Lottery is set to launch later this year after legislation was passed last year.

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