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Laura Clark: Voting down the lottery and gambling is a high stakes game for Alabama’s future

The Alabama Senate appears set to vote down the lottery and gaming bill by a single vote. One vote against bringing billions of dollars over years to our children and Alabama’s education system. 

Ironically, the very people who were voted into office by the citizens of Alabama are taking away those same citizens’ right to vote on the future of our state. 

Alabama sits in last place nationally in education, high school graduation rates, and literacy. We  need only look to our neighboring states to see what the Alabama Senate will force us to forego.

In Georgia, the Hope Scholarship has provided unbelievable improvements to their universities, not to mention the thousands of Georgia children who have seen their dreams of postsecondary education become a reality.

In Mississippi, education and quality of life metrics have improved immensely, not to mention all the shiny new emergency response vehicles seen throughout the Magnolia State. It appears the days of claiming “at least we have Mississippi!” may be over.

I want to applaud the House and Senate legislators who have worked tirelessly on this bill.  Countless hours spent negotiating, drafting, and amending this legislation – all because they believe that Alabamians deserve a chance to decide their own future.

Unfortunately, the false narratives surrounding this legislation appear to have prevailed. Casinos have long been extremely profitable in Alabama. You only need to drive through one of the casino parking lots to see that. Opponents will say that casinos increase crime. The only problem with that argument is there is no statistical evidence that casinos raise the crime rate in any city. The real problem is that we are not seeing one dime of revenue from these operations go towards our citizens. 

Gaming is set up for recreation. Like anything else, there are those who can and will abuse it. There are people who bet thousands of dollars on rounds of golf regularly. But we don’t shut down the golf courses.

Alabamians believe in personal freedom and personal choice. We are more forward thinking than to want the government deciding where our money can and cannot go, and we want better for our children. We want to keep the money that people are taking to our neighboring states in Alabama. And we want to have our voices heard.

The next vote is Thursday. Please let your representatives know that you want the right to vote on this crucial bill for our state in August. Let our voices be heard.

Laura Johnston 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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