Lottery Bill Being Drafted in Alabama Senate

Wednesday April 29th 2015

The President pro tempore of the Alabama Senate is drafting a bill that would see the development of a state lottery in addition to gambling facilities. Senator Del Marsh, a Republican, claims that the results of a study conducted by Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) makes an appealing case for the legalization of lotteries and bricks-and-mortar casinos.

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Marsh says that most of his colleagues in the legislature have been positive about the proposal. “We had just a few members that were adamantly opposed,” he said. “The bulk of the caucus felt that it needs to be kept in play and have asked me to put together a draft piece of legislation that I can get to them.” He intends to introduce the bill next week.

This isn’t the first time that Alabama has tried to introduce a lottery - a bill introduced in 1999 failed when 54 percent of voters chose to reject a plan that would have established a lottery supporting K-12 and college education.

Apart from Mississippi, every state bordering or nearby Alabama offers lottery games to its residents. In nearby Louisiana, $448.9 million was raised in Louisiana Lottery sales in the 2014 fiscal year alone. The study from AUM, commissioned by Marsh’s office, estimates that a state-managed lottery could bring in an estimated annual revenue of $332 million for Alabama in addition to estimated gaming revenue of $492 million. The taxes raised off this revenue could be immensely helpful for the state in addition to giving residents the opportunity to stay closer to home when they want the chance to win big prizes.

Alabama is currently struggling with an extreme budget shortfall that would hurt social services, environmental management and the state’s National Guard reserves if the draft budget stands as it is now. However, Governor Robert Bentley doesn’t seem terribly excited about the prospect of a state lottery - he’s not entirely convinced it will raise the money needed to fill in the gaps. His proposed $541 million tax package, focused largely on car, cigarette and tobacco taxes, has produced some opposition from state lawmakers. Bentley has no veto power over any lottery proposal, which must be approved by popular vote.

Despite his reluctance, it’s reassuring that the Governor intends to leave the decision in the hands of voters, all of whom would definitely feel the pressure that steep budget cuts might create. A lottery might be a very welcome result for those who want to want to hit the jackpot while improving the quality of life in Alabama.

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