Alabama Lottery Stalls Before House Can Even Vote on Bill

Alabama Lottery Stalls Before House Can Even Vote on Bill

Attempting to legalize lottery gaming in Alabama has become an annual sport. Each year, a bill is proposed and each year, there’s a general agreement that it should be legalized. Where it gets stuck is figuring out a way to distribute the gambling revenues.

The same story played out once again this week as the Alabama Legislature scrutinized the latest proposal for lottery and gaming. But it’s now “dead for this session,” said the House bill sponsor, Steve Clouse of Ozark, according to an al.com story.

This year’s version, SB 220, was a constitutional amendment, which would allow lotteries in a restricted fashion with customers playing paper-based games. Remember that Alabama is just one of a few states – along with Utah and Mississippi – that prohibits lotteries. Any changes would require a change to the constitution, which therefore would need voter approval.

The state’s Senate had barely passed the lottery bill, 21-12, in April.

Alabama Missing Out on Sports Gambling Money

As a result, the amount of revenue that the state will be missing out on has been estimated at about $167 million a year. The proposal had slated 75% of that money to go to the state’s General Fund while 25% of it would go to the Education Trust Fund.

This year’s push-and-pull focused on gaming machines. There seemed to be a consensus that a clean lottery bill would have passed the legislature. But politicians representing Macon and Greene counties wanted to set up electronic bingo at dog tracks VictoryLand and GreenTrack. The GOP caucus was not keen on adding gaming at those venues.

The second hurdle was that the legislature couldn’t agree on how to distribute the money. The Democrats in the state House wanted to see a larger share of the revenues going to the Education Trust Fund and have amounts specifically earmarked for Medicaid. Republicans disagreed both with Democrats and among themselves, and that led to the bill stalling out once again.

Lottery Doesn’t Even Go to Full Vote

Overall, there were only about 47 firm “Yes” voters had this bill been put up for a vote but 63 would have been required. At any rate, the lottery bill didn’t even make it past a procedural motion – missing by a single vote – which meant that it didn’t get put up for an official vote.

As a result, Alabama appears to be missing out on a big windfall of money. It’s going to hurt a state that annually ranks among the worst in terms of poverty rate and household income. They’re expecting costs from Medicaid and the new Children’s Health Insurance Program to be in the range of $110 million alone next year and now they’ll be left searching for another solution to fill that gap.

At the end of the day, this is nothing new for the state of Alabama, where opposition to the lottery – or any other forms of gambling – has a stronghold partly attributed to the state’s religious, mostly conservative roots. The annual discussion has been ongoing for nearly two decades and it’ll come up in conversation in 2020 once again.

The state would clearly benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars being pumped into their schools, infrastructure and medical care. But for now Alabamans will have to find another way.

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