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Gaming interests try to position casinos as ‘no brainer’ fix for Alabama budget problems

Flickr user Dallas1200am

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A pro-gambling non-profit is calling the legalization of gaming in Alabama a “no brainer” fix for state budget problems, but not all Alabamians are bought in.

The Alabama Jobs Foundation (AJF), a non-profit created during this year’s regular session of Alabama’s state legislature, promotes gaming in the Yellowhammer State, saying it is the answer to budgetary problems experienced during recent special session nightmares.

AJF advocates for the gaming plan proposed by Senator Del Marsh during the 2015 regular session. This constitutional amendment in summary would create the Alabama Lottery Corporation; allow slot machines and table games at the four existing racetracks where gaming is currently legal in Mobile, Macon County, Greene County and Birmingham; and authorize the Governor to negotiate a compact for gaming with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

ALF argues that thousands of jobs would be created in the process of expansion of gaming in the State of Alabama.

Members of the Alabama Jobs Foundation are former Auburn Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Pat Dye,  Charles McCrary, retired president of Alabama Power, and Raymond Harbert, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Harbert Management Corporation.

According to a study by the Institute for Accountability and Government Efficiency at Auburn University of Montgomery, an Alabama lottery and casino gaming system would create a $1.2 billion annual economic impact for the State of Alabama, and generate almost $400 million in new revenue for State programs.

In addition, the study claims that more than 11,000 new jobs would be created if casino gaming were allowed at the current facilities located in Mobile, Birmingham, Macon and Greene County.

But the Alabama Policy Institute (API), a free market think tank established more than 25 years ago, says state-supported gambling is not the right approach.

“Research clearly shows that lotteries take the most from the least–from the poor,” wrote API president Caleb Crosby and vice president Katherine Robertson. “This has been proven by national-level data, as well as by data from Southern states with lotteries such as Georgia and North Carolina. In Georgia, residents in the ten poorest counties spent 44% more on lottery tickets than residents in the ten wealthiest counties, yet the former received 36% less in the education dollars provided by the lottery. In North Carolina, poverty rates in counties with high lottery-ticket sales were, on average, 42% higher than the rest of the state.”

Crosby and Robertson continued, “Exploiting the poor to pay for government would be a step backwards, economically and morally, in reducing Alabama’s poverty rates. A state-run lottery relies on the poor to feed government and attempts to justify it by promising–promising–that the proceeds will create government programs to serve the poor. But look at what’s happening in Illinois: lottery players, who are overwhelmingly poor, lined the state’s pockets, yet that didn’t solve the state’s abysmal fiscal situation. And, to make matters worse, Illinois can’t even afford to pay the winners of its lottery. The state making good on its promises–talk about slim odds!”

The Alabama Legislature returns to Montgomery for the 2016 Regular Session in February, when there is expected to be another round of proposed tax increases.