Posted on: March 20, 2021, 06:27h.
Last updated on: March 21, 2021, 01:42h.
Lawmakers determined to establish a lottery and expand gaming in Alabama aren’t done yet. On Thursday, the Senate Tourism Committee approved a bill that would put the lottery issue on the ballot.
This comes a week after influential tourism committee chairman Sen. Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) gambling expansion package suffered a shock defeat on the Senate floor.
The revived effort, from Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), currently only addresses the lottery. But Marsh told AL.com it could be amended to include more provisions.
Marsh’s failed bill would have asked voters to decide on five new commercial casinos at predesignated locations. In changing the constitution to permit casino gaming, it would have paved the way for the state’s only federally recognized tribe, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, to upgrade their electronic bingo operations to full-fledged Class III gaming.
The Senate was widely expected to pass the bill last week, but it failed by two votes. Marsh later expressed disappointment with some colleagues who had pledged to back his bill, but flip-flopped. He also castigated himself for allowing the vote to be held at a time when two Democratic senators who supported the legislation were absent because of illness. It was a “rookie mistake,” he said.
“Since last week’s vote, I’ve had members come to me asking about reconsideration, that some folks weren’t there,” Marsh told AL.com. “I said, ‘Listen, what’s important is we get something out there for people to make a decision on.’
“So all I’ve done today are keep all the options open. We would have had trouble getting a clean lottery bill out today, because you have members on both sides of this issue. You have members that want to see a more comprehensive gaming package. And those who do prefer a simple lottery. All we did today was keep both alive.”
Keep Alabama Lottery Bill Simple
Alabama is one of just four states in the US, along with Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah, that does not have a lottery. McClendon’s bill would establish a regular lottery draw with access to multistate games like Powerball and Mega Millions.
It would also authorize scratch-off tickets and online lottery games. Revenues generated for the state would be split evenly between education and the General Fund.
Speaking to AL.com, McClendon said he was open to the idea of expanding the scope of the bill, but questioned whether adding too many moving parts could cause it to sink like its predecessor.
“Is the House more likely to pass the big omnibus bill? Or is the House more likely to pass the simple, straightforward lottery bill that I’ve introduced?” he asked AL.com. “I don’t know. Until I know different, I’ll have to strongly suspect that House members will prefer a simple bill rather than a complicated bill. But I don’t know that to be a fact.”