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Laura Clark: Letting the people vote on gaming is the Republican thing to do

For years, the question has lingered throughout Alabama: lottery or no lottery? To game or not to game? The answer? Folks, it is already here!

If you haven’t ventured into any of Alabama’s three casinos owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians – Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Wetumpka, Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Atmore, and Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Montgomery – it’s worth the trip.

I found that both Alabamians and visitors agreed when I visited the Wind Creek Casino in Montgomery. The parking lot was packed, restaurants and convenience stores inside the casino were booming, and countless individuals were immersed in an atmosphere of entertainment.

It is no wonder Indian gaming revenue has been increasing heavily since 2008.

However, there’s a catch when it comes to state revenue.

These establishments operate under sovereignty, falling outside state law, leaving Alabama with no major tax benefits from their establishments.

Governor Ivey commissioned a study group in 2020, which yielded a 900-page report proving that a state lottery would bring in an estimated $200 million to $300 million, coupled with an additional $300 million to $400 million from casino gaming – a combined influx of $700 million into Alabama.

All this time, Alabama has been enhancing the bottom line of our neighboring states instead of tapping into the potential economic windfall from a legalized lottery and gaming system.

In a time when our service industry and small businesses are hanging on by a thread, we are shaking our heads at what could be an economic windfall for our state. Alabama needs to make some bold moves, or we are going to go underwater.

The benefits extend beyond mere fiscal revenue. By approving a lottery and gaming package, Alabama’s generated revenue would be directed toward education and healthcare – two areas our state is constantly making strides to improve.

A recent poll shows that 78% of Alabamians want the opportunity to vote on lottery and gaming. Think about that for a minute. Almost 8 out of 10 Alabamians want to vote to change our state’s economic outlook for the better.

One would think that a gaming package would easily pass through the Legislature as our legislators are elected to represent the people of Alabama’s voice. Yet, in the past legislative session, the Senate voted to pass the bill for a state lottery only to be voted down by the House.

It makes absolutely no sense that Alabamians want to vote on gaming, yet the very people they elected to represent them would deny their wants.

Legislators are there to represent their constituents. Period. End of Story.

The governor has repeatedly stated that she would like to see the people vote on a lottery and gaming.

By letting the people decide through a vote, the state can embrace individual freedom, limit government interference, and secure a brighter economic future. Lawmakers should rally behind the idea that the people of Alabama have the right to shape the economic destiny of their state. After all, the democratic process, championed by the Republican Party, recognizes that citizens, not elected officials, should determine the path forward.

As the legislative session reconvenes on February 6, legalizing lottery and gaming in Alabama is not just about the potential economic windfall; it is a testament to our elected officials’ faith in the democratic process.

Let’s see who champions our state to have a lottery and gaming industry that brings much-needed revenue to Alabama. Those will be the legislators who leave a legacy far beyond their term in office.

Laura Clark is a wife, mother and businesswoman. She grew up in the Wiregrass and now lives in Birmingham with her husband retired Air Force Col. David Etheredge. She is a member of the Alabama Republican Party.

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