BIRMINGHAM (Maggie Walsh and Jennifer Davis Rash) — Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery bill (SB 3), sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, passed the Alabama Senate 21–12 a little more than a hour ago.
The bill is Bentley’s attempt to address the $85 million Medicaid shortfall, even though he claimed last year gambling was not the answer.
The bill, which garnered lots of attention from senators attempting to edit it with their own amendments, would create a statewide and Powerball lottery as well as a commission to oversee and regulate the gambling system.
Sen. Greg Reed, R–Jasper, was successful in getting 10 percent of lottery proceeds set aside for education.
An amendment by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, prevents lottery revenue from being used in advertising for the lottery, and an amendment by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, keeps legislators and their families from working for the lottery.
Down to the wire
At press time the bill was set to be debated in the House of Representatives on Aug. 23.
For a proposal to make it on the Nov. 8 ballot for Alabamians to vote on, it would have to pass through both houses by Aug. 24.
McClendon’s other lottery bill was just one vote shy of passing earlier in the week, with 20 in favor and 11 against. Four senators abstained from voting.
If that bill, which Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, called a “train wreck,” had passed it would have allowed the placement of electronic gambling machines in VictoryLand in Shorter, Greenetrack in Eutaw, the Birmingham Race Course, the Mobile Greyhound Park and in Houston and Lowndes counties. It also would have allowed a gambling compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
In a statement issued Aug. 16, Attorney General Luther Strange said he is “personally opposed” to a lottery, but “if [Bentley’s bill] passes as proposed and is followed by responsible enabling legislation, my legal team believes it will create a limited lottery without the kinds of loopholes that will lead to casino gambling.”
But gambling opponents in the state are concerned the legislation is not as rigid as Strange has determined and that it could open the door for casino gambling.
Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program, urges Alabamians to contact their house member and urge them to vote no on the lottery bill.
To contact your representative or senator, visit capwiz.com/state-al/home/