Former Alabama Governor Urges State To Consider Lottery As Separate Bill

Efforts to establish a retail lottery in Alabama have faced a number of hurdles over the years.

The latest comes with it being packaged in a bill with other gambling forms that have opposition from legislators.

After the Alabama House and Senate were divided on gambling legislation, it’s now come down to six bipartisan lawmakers to try and find a compromise. But, the clock is ticking.

Will the state find a way to become the 46th to legalize lottery draw games and instant win games in the US?

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman spoke to ABC 33/40 and stressed that the lottery issue should be a separate one from casino and sports betting:

“(Legislators) want to group them together, hoping that the popularity of the lottery would also carry the day for sports betting and casinos. But, we need to divide them this ballot. If they’re going to vote on all three, then let’s vote on all three separately, so that people can clearly cast their ballot in a meaningful and thoughtful way.”

Conference committee established to find compromise

The bills in question for legislators in Alabama are HB151 and HB152.

The first would remove the state’s prohibition on gambling. The second would legalize a statewide lottery and originally called for legalized casino gaming and sports betting.

Alabama’s House passed the bills, calling for up to 10 casinos to be established in the state.

However, the Senate took the bill and removed sports betting entirely, while allowing fewer casinos and adding electronic wagering machines at dog tracks and other locations.

The two sides were also split on where funding from the gambling forms would go throughout the state.

Because of the sides being far apart, a six-person, bipartisan conference committee was formed to try and reach a compromise. The group consists of:

  • Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro)
  • Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore)
  • Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman)
  • Rep. Sam Jones (D-Mobile)
  • Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Smiths Station)
  • Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest)

Time running out to get legislation passed in Alabama

The conference committee met this week, but provided no public updates on where things stand on the legislation. Singleton felt that a compromise could be met:

“I feel real good about what could come out. I think there’s some things that can be worked out.”

Preliminary discussions in the special committee began on April 17. Once it reaches its final proposal, the bill has to go back to each chamber for a final vote.

Alabama’s legislative session is down to its final weeks, with adjournment taking place on May 20.

According to the Alabama legislature, for a bill to be signed into law, it needs to reach the governor fewer than five days before the end of the session. It also must be within 10 days of adjournment.

Bills not approved in that timeline are known as a pocket veto.

In that case, a new bill would have to be crafted in 2025 to get the process started again.

Lottery has support, may need to be a solo topic

While politicians and interest groups are divided on casino and sports betting, lottery features a lot of support.

Rep. Whitt believes that getting the public an opportunity to vote is a must:

“The people want to vote and they deserve the right to vote.”

The state put a lottery up for a public vote in 1999, but it was rejected. Opposition came in the form of religious organizations that felt a lottery would corrupt the state and lead to crime.

Siegelman ran his campaign in 1998 on a pro-lottery platform. However, he wasn’t able to deliver.

He told ABC 33/40 that the time is now for the state to have another chance to vote on the matter. He also wants to see the funding go toward supporting education programs and helping in-state kids get college scholarships:

“It’s going to take the people informing the members of the legislature that they want a pure lottery that is devoted to public education.”

The only way that may come is by having these gambling topics as separate issues to vote on. The divide between casino and sports betting looks to be impeding on lottery’s progress, as Siegelman notes:

“What’s in the best interests of the people of Alabama is for the legislature to split this ballot up into three choices. (One being) a pure lottery with everything devoted to preschool and free college scholarships. Give the people what they want. Let them vote on that, and also let them vote on sports betting and casinos.”

According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, the state is missing out on $270-$386 million in annual tax revenue by not having a state-run lottery.

 

Photo by PlayiLottery

About the Author

Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis

Lead Writer
A member of Catena Media since 2020, Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer at PlayiLottery, where he handles coverage of the online and retail lottery industry in the US. He previously spearheaded news content at PlayMichigan, where he covered one of the most prominent online lottery industries in the US — among the many other aspects of Michigan's sprawling iGaming market. You can email him at [email protected].
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