The chance for there to be a statewide lottery in Alabama got over its second hurdle on Thursday.
Another narrow vote was the decider for the bill from the minds of Greg Albritton of Atmore and co-sponsor Del Marsh of Anniston, as some heated discussion in the Alabama State Senate led to a favoring 21-12 vote (Republicans 19-5 in favor; Democrats 7-2 in opposition). With the bill being a constitutional amendment, Alabama law states that votes in the Senate and House must get three-fifths approval to pass, which by getting 21 votes of the 35 Alabama Senate seats the lottery bill only just got that.
The vote came after some very cutthroat debate from Alabama lawmakers regarding the electronic gambling side of things. As mentioned in our previous coverage of the story, Albritton’s bill would only allow a paper lottery, but anything electronically such as casino like games and fantasy sports will continue to be illegal under Alabama state law. A lottery bill from Jim McClendon of Springville does exist to also protect electronic gambling, but that bill is not being considered in Montgomery. The only legally protected electronic gambling in the state would continue to be games owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indian casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka, who are more under federal authority.
An amendment added by Bobby Singleton of Greensboro in the Senate Tourism Committee would have gone on to help add protections for electronic bingo and pari-mutuel betting, but that amendment was stripped away by the Senate. That said, two other amendments were approved and added on in the Singleton Amendment’s place: one from Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham to protect the electronic bingo and pari-mutuel betting in Jefferson County, and another from Linda Coleman-Madison of Birmingham to protect such games that existed before 2005.
The heated debate among Senators also centered on the simplicity of the Albritton Lottery, with opposition pointing out that the estimated $167 million the paper lottery would create isn’t enough revenue and the inability to allow the aforementioned electronic games kills a lot of extra revenue the state could receive. Lawmakers did slightly budge with adding a third amendment that allows for electronic purchasing for the paper lottery, but it will not be surprising for this debate about simplicity to continue to make for a shaky ground for the bill moving forward.
The bill now moves to the State House, where it will again need a minimum of 63 votes to get three-fifths favoring and move on to being put on ballots for the people of Alabama to vote on, potentially on ballots for the March 2020 Primaries.