Alabama State Senate and House of Representatives Each Pass a Lottery Bill
The Alabama State Senate passed a lottery bill last week, setting up a vote in the Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday. The bill passed in the Alabama House by a margin of 64-35, 1 vote more than the 63-vote minimum needed to pass. An initial vote was 61-37, but the House voted to reconsider the issue and its supporters collected the votes to pass the measure on the second tally.
Reps. Kelvin Lawrence (D) and David Sessions (R) voted against the bill on the first vote, but changed their vote to help the measure pass. Rep. Darius Melton, a Democrat from Selma, at first abstained, but voted for the bill on the recount. In most cases, lawmakers who change a vote do so in order to gain an advantage or concession for their constituency. Gambling votes are considered a matter of conscience in most legislatures, which means the votes often blur party lines.
It is a big win for supporters of a state lottery in Alabama. Most reports before the Senate vote suggested the lottery bill would fail. After provisions were taking out of the wording, the measure passed by a 21-12 margin. The part of the bill which was taken out involved the installation of video lottery terminals in the state four dog tracks. VLTs are a kind of slot machine which runs on a bingo or lottery mechanism. Because VLTs have fixed-odds, they are considered Class II gaming machines.
Last Statewide Vote in 1999
Alabama is one of the few states with no state lottery, so a lottery bill passing any house of the legislature is remarkable. With the bill passed, Alabama voters will be able to vote on the measure in a statewide referendum in November.
Video Lottery Terminal Clauses Removed
The VLT clauses of the bill were too controversial, so they were removed before the vote. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has been on a (seemingly) one-man crusader against gaming machines in the four dog tracks the past several years.
Strange defied the orders of an Alabama judge and Gov. Bentley himself. Judge William Shashy ordered the AG to return gaming machines confiscated from VictoryLand several years ago, but Strange refused to do so. Later, Gov. Bentley instructed state troopers they were under no obligation to executive Luther Strange’s orders, if he told them to conduct anti-gambling raids.
Gov. Bentley to Sign the Lottery Bill
The Alabama governor is said to back the state lottery plan. Gaming analysts and lawmakers have estimated the state lottery would be worth between $225 million and $400 million for the state each year.
In the United States, lottery betting generates $70 billion a year in revenue. There’s a reason that lottery corporations like Scientific Games and GTECH have the resources to buy huge slot machine manufacturers like Bally Technologies and IGT. The multistate lottery associations, Powerball and Mega Millions, have the biggest jackpots in the world. One pot reached $1.6 billion last year.
Keep the Money in Alabama
Furthermore, studies show that Alabama residents already play the lottery. Those who live anywhere near another state travel across the state line to buy lottery tickets elsewhere, which is legal. That revenue is likely to stay in Alabama, if a state lottery is made legal. People living in a more central location of the state will create a much bigger revenue stream.
Alabama has one of the strictest set of gaming laws in the United States. Earlier this year, Alabama’s lawmakers decided to ban daily fantasy sports. The state decided that any form of gaming which involves real money on the outcome of sporting events is illegal, no matter how much skill is involved.
Anti-Lottery Poll Numbers
Anti-gambling groups in Alabama cited polls recently which suggested the electorate would vote against the lottery bill. Those groups only polled Republicans, which showed a narrow majority of GOP voters were against a state lottery.
Though Alabama politics is dominated by the Republican Party, 36% of the electorate voted for the Democrat Party in the last statewide election. Given the larger percentage of Democrats who support a state lottery, all the indications are a state lottery referendum would win in Alabama, if the voters received a chance to vote.
November 2016 State Lottery Vote
Thus, the future of an Alabama state lottery might well have hinged on whether the House of Representatives approved or rejected the state lottery bill. Whether the pollsters’ numbers were flawed are going to be proven now, because Alabama voters will be able to vote on whether they want a state lottery in November.
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