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Alabama Lottery Bill Clears First Hurdle With Narrow Senate Committee Approval

One of the most talked about issues for the last 2 decades in Alabama is one step closer to its resolution.

The Senate Tourism Committee met on Tuesday, with the main focus centered on a bill from Senator Greg Albritton of Atmore for a statewide lottery to be established in the state. It was nowhere near as clear cut of a vote as Albritton may have wanted, but the Tourism Committee after plenty of discussion pushed the bill forward on a narrow 6-5 vote.

The fiscal note on the bill estimates that it would raise $167 million a year after prizes and expenses are paid. That money would initially be used to repay the Alabama Trust Fund $184 million transferred into the General Fund from 2013-15, but after that money is repaid the lottery revenues would be split evenly between the Alabama Trust Fund and the General Fund.

With Albritton’s bill, the type of lottery established would strictly be multi-state or intrastate games played with paper tickets and instant tickets. It would exclude any forms of video gaming, including video lottery terminals, and any mobile or Internet-based video games or casino-style games. While Alabama would be in line to finally keep money in the state for those trying to win the Mega Millions and Powerball Lotteries, those with interest in fantasy sports with monetary prizes are still going to be waiting for their solution if Albritton’s bill is fully approved.

This said, Bobby Singleton of Greensboro did get an amendment added that said the prohibition on video gaming and video lottery terminals did not apply to any form of bingo or pari-mutuel betting (the type of betting associated with horse races), a move Singleton says protects jobs at facilities where these types of betting exist. This still didn’t stop Senator Singleton, along with David Burkette of Montgomery, Tim Melson of Florence, David Sessions of Mobile, and Rodger Smitherman Birmingham to vote against the full bill, citing the modern types of lottery-style gaming the bill doesn’t allow like the aforementioned fantasy sports as something that is only going to be more of a headache if they try to wait later to allow it, basically calling Albritton’s bill too incomplete.

The bill still founds this hurdle jumped though, as the 6 other voting members of the committee approved Albritton’s bill and the added amendment. Senator Andrew Jones of Centre was one of those approving members, along with Billy Beasley of Clayton, Chris Elliott of Fairhope, Garland Gudger of Cullman, Randy Price of Opelika, and bill co-sponsor Del Marsh of Anniston.

The idea of a statewide lottery is definitely not a new one, with Alabama voters rejecting an attempt by former Governor Don Siegelman in 1999 to have one established. Since then it has not only caused debate between typical Alabama citizens, but it has now become one of the hottest topics for legislatures to figure out. This isn’t helped given the fact that Alabama is the only Southern state (with neighboring Mississippi expecting to begin gaming this year after they approved their own lottery) and one of 5 states in the entire United States (Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah) without a lottery in place or pending. The topic is so hot that elected officials could see themselves ousted if the effort was not shown in trying to get that very well put together lottery bill agreed on to present to Alabama voters.

With the approval by the Senate Tourism Committee, the bill is now moved to the full Alabama State Senate to begin wider discussion and an eventual vote, with Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed of Jasper expecting the bill to enter the floor possibly on Thursday. If the bill can find a push through the State Senate and House, it would then become a voted on bill for Alabama voters to hopefully find on ballots in 2020.

For more on this story, you can visit AL.com here or here.

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