Could Alabama Be Next To Introduce A State Lottery?

Friday April 5th 2019 Could Alabama Be Next To Introduce A State Lottery?

Alabama could be the next state to launch a lottery after a second bill was filed in the Senate. Lawmakers debated the pros and cons of both proposals during public hearings on Thursday, and will vote on the bills at a later date. If either of them gets enacted into law, Alabama would become the 46th state to have its own lottery.

The introduction of a lottery in the Yellowhammer State has been a major talking point amongst government officials for several years. The Alabama Senate approved a bill in 2016, but the support later collapsed when it became clear that video lottery terminals would not be allowed.

Competing Bills

One of the latest bills proposes that video lottery terminals should be in place at dog tracks in Birmingham, Macon County, Greene County and Mobile, as well as Lowndes County. The proposal has been put forward by Republican Sen. Jim McClendon and argues that electronic games would have a positive economic impact.

"It ensures jobs and increases jobs in the state of Alabama," said McClendon, pointing to areas where jobs were lost when the state shut down casinos with electronic bingo machines. He would like to see the net revenue divided equally between the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund.

The rival bill has been filed by Republican Sen. Greg Albritton and would allow a lottery with paper tickets only. He has described it as a simple lottery that gives people the right to vote as to whether to have a lottery or not.

Opposition

The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee heard from players on both sides of the debate on Thursday, with opponents of both bills arguing that lotteries target poor communities. There was also a suggestion from Joe Godfrey, the executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, that a lottery could lead to an escalation in gambling.

Godfrey’s fear is that the Poarch Board of Creek Indians, which operates electronic bingo machines under federal law, would be able to have casino games if the state started a lottery, as lotteries and casinos fall into the same classification under Indian gaming regulations. He said: “If we have Class III gambling, they can have Class III gambling.”

The Poarch Board disputed this suggestion, saying it would not necessarily open the door for slot machines and table games. Cody Williamson, who heads Creek Indian Enterprises, said: “It does not automatically give us Class III. ... There has to be a compact that's negotiated. It doesn't force the state of Alabama to negotiate a compact at all. We could ask for a compact. They could say no.”

What About Other States?

Supporters of a lottery in Alabama have previously noted the amount of dollars that the state is missing out on, with residents crossing the border to play in neighbouring jurisdictions such as Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, especially when there are big jackpots up for grabs in Mega Millions and Powerball.

Mississippi, which flanks the western edge of Alabama, is also set to bring in its own lottery after legislation was passed in 2018. The Mississippi Lottery is expected to be up and running before the end of this year.

The only other states without lotteries are Utah, Alaska, Hawaii and Nevada. In Hawaii, much like in Alabama, there are supporters of a lottery, and a recent bill was proposed in the Aloha State for Hawaii to join Powerball and Mega Millions.

It remains to be seen how Alabama’s lawmakers vote on the two latest lottery bills, and even then there would be more obstacles to overcome before tickets could be sold, but the first steps are being taken to possible participation in games such as Powerball. Lottery.net will provide further updates as the story unfolds.

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