MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R-Anniston) held a press conference Tuesday with Birmingham’s Democratic Mayor William Bell to officially introduce a gambling expansion bill, the first time such legislation has received such overt Republican support in the State Legislature.
Bell stood beside Marsh Tuesday in support of the bill that would institute a lottery and allow Alabama’s existing casino locations to increase the types of games they can offer.
“I’m not a gamer,” Marsh stressed during the press conference, “I don’t game. But I think it’s time we let the people make a decision so that people who want to do this can do it and leave those revenues in the State of Alabama.”
“It’s not an easy decision for me to come up and do this,” Marsh said. “But I do think it’s an easy decision when I look at the options of these three plans and what they bring to the state.”
Marsh said he will welcome input from his colleagues in the Senate and House in an effort to send the best possible legislation before the Alabama people to vote on this September.
Beside the two gentlemen at the podium was a large sign comparing Marsh’s plan to those of the Governor and the Poarch Creek Indians.
Mayor Bell spoke at length of the “economic impact” the bill would make, citing the report from Auburn University Montgomery that estimates an increase of 11,000 jobs as well as $400 million in revenue.
“I want to commend Senator Marsh on taking a leadership role with this effort to bring some financial relief to the State of Alabama,” Mayor Bell said at the press conference. “It’s not just about gaming… it’s about the economic vitality of this entire state.”
Mayor Bell said he believes increasing gambling in the state would attract more conferences and conventions to the state.
“I have in my pocket three lottery tickets that were purchased by choice,” Bell said. “A tax is not by choice. If we place a tax on people they will have no choice in the matter, but if we have a lottery they can make their own decision as to whether or not they want to participate and play.”
Sen. Marsh’s bill will face significant pushback from Governor Bentley, who continues to press for increasing revenues through taxes, and called the bill “one of the worst bills [he’s] ever seen” Monday.
Marsh’s bill will be debated in committee and by the entire Senate in the coming weeks.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015