Give the people of Alabama what they want — A lottery
The Alabama legislature failed to move forward on either of the pieces of lottery legislation before them today.
Instead, there appears to be so many players in this battle that it seems unlikely we will see any actual legislation at all.
Existing gambling interests want to have their clearly illegal casinos legalized so they don’t have to exist at the whims of locals sheriffs and under the constant threat of possible action by the Alabama attorney general.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians don’t want competition in the form of other casinos being legalized unless they can expand their gambling interests. This could include more gaming at their current location or expansion into the actual state of Alabama.
Legislators want revenue, which is not a complicated thing to see. Some are concerned about expanding gaming in the form of including Alabama in a multi-state lottery. Some are OK with the multi-state lottery idea, but are fearful of including the instant games (scratch-off tickets). Some oppose all gambling under any circumstance.
The bill offered by Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) would have given the state an entrance into a multi-state lottery and give existing electronic bingo outlets access to “virtual lottery terminal”, which are both essentially slot machines with extra steps.
The bill offered by State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Range) would allow the multi-state lottery and scratchers, but nothing more. Arguments have been made that this would allow the Poarch Creek to move towards casino gambling.
What do the people of the great state of Alabama want? They want a vote on the lottery.
Do they care about the nuts and bolts of it? It does not appear so.
They are tired of driving to other states to get lottery tickets. I don’t think they care how that changes.
State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) told WBRC that the more complicated it gets the fewer people want it.
“It’s simple in theory. And if you poll it right now, ‘Do you want a lottery or not,’ you get an overwhelming 70 percent in my district want it. If you say, ‘You want a lottery, but all the money has to go to this,’ the numbers drop drastically,” Ward said in October 2018.
There is a looming cloud hanging over every conversation that is had about the Alabama legislature: The recently passed 10-cent gas tax.
Legislators should give the people a vote on the lottery. It may get the bad taste some voters seem to have from the gas tax out of their mouths.
The last time the lottery came up for a vote in 1999 it failed 54 to 46 percent. If you change one vote out of every 25 votes, we have a lottery.
Have 4 percent of Alabama voters’ minds changed on the lottery in 20 years? I would gamble they have.