Alabama Lottery and Racetrack Gaming Bill Is Defeated in the State Senate
A gambling bill which would have legalize a state lottery and expanded dog track betting died in the State Senate on Thursday. The bill faced an uphill battle the entire time, because it needed unanimous approval from the Senate to be moved forward.
That leaves little time in the regular session for a new initiative towards more gambling to take players. Lawmakers on both sides of the debate appear to have moved on to other issues. Had the new gaming laws gone into effect, it would have placed an additional $400 million in the state’s General Fund, which is facing a budget shortfall. Proponents said the bill would have created 11,000 new jobs and had an overall impact of $1.2 billion.
Del Marsh’s Gaming Bill
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh had supported the bill in the hopes he could jumpstart the Alabama economy by adding 11,000 new jobs. Opponents of the bill vowed to fight it every step of the way, for fear expanded gambling would bring corruption and misery to the state.
Proponents of Del Marsh’s proposal notes that all of the surrounding states have lottery gaming, while Mississippi has a firmly-established casino gambling industry. Thus, defeating Marsh’s bill only perpetuates a status quo in which Alabama gamblers drive across state lines and put their money into other states’ economies. Sen. Marsh’s bill would have brought casino-style gambling to the dog tracks in Birmingham, Mobile, Greene County, and Macon County.
CBS 8 Reporter Talks to the People
Ashley Thompson, a reporter for Alabama News Net, went to a local convenience store to get reactions from Montegomery residents. She spoke with Frederick James, a local citizen, who said, “I think the lawmakers should let the people vote.”
Ms. Thompsen said that was the prevalent attitude she got in her interviews with local residents. John Dijt, another resident, was quoted saying, “The state needs the money and if the money is used correctly, I’m all for a lottery. I sure am.”
Preston Collins, another of those surveyed, said: “I think they’re not worried about the education that it would provide for our kids.”
More Reactions on the News
Donna Smith, a Tuskegee resident, said that her area of the state needed the economic boost, after the closing of Victoryland. Mrs. Smith said, “We need that lottery. I think we need it here. Macon County, Greyhound racing. I mean, it brought a lot of jobs, a lot of things here.”
Darryl Smith, a native of New Jersey, said that Alabama could have followed a model other states had in funding the education system. Mr. Smith said, “In New Jersey, the lottery up there pays for free education for the kids, senior citizen programs, highways, roads.”
Most of those who talked were more concerned that the gambling bill never received a fair hearing in the Alabama State Senate. Most would have preferred a statewide referendum on the state of gambling in Alabama. The idea that an obscure rule calling for unanimity killed the gambling bill was abhorrent to many.
Even had the bill received full consideration, the battle to enact a state lottery would have been difficult. Alabama is one of the five U.S. states without a lottery, marking it as one of the most anti-gambling states in the country. Two of the other states without a lottery–Utah and Hawaii–have a 100% ban on gambling.
In Alabama, a variety of interests were against the measure, from the social conservatives to the local gaming interests. Several faith-based groups proved instrumental in lobbying against the bill, much as they had the last time Alabama had considered a lottery in 1999.
Poarch Creek Indians Protected Monopoly
Robert McGhee, a spokesman for the Poarch Creek Band of Indians which owns three gaming facilities in Alabama, went before the State Senate to make a passionate appeal to defeat the bill. He told the Senators the plan to allow casino gambling at a minimum of 4 racetracks–and probably 7 of them–was “not good for the state of Alabama.”
McGhee said the Poarch Creek Indians “have a better approach“, which incidentally allows them to keep a virtual gambling monopoly in the state. That is one of the reasons many of Alabama’s residents said the killing of the bill was “politics as usual”, which was quoted in the Alabama Newsnet, which is affiliated with the Montgomery Channel 8 CBS News.
Never Had a Chance
In the end, the bill never had much chance of succeeding, due to the parliamentary approach to approval of the bill. Anyone familiar with US politics these past few years would know it would be hard to get a group of senators to agree on anything unanimously, much less a gaming bill in a traditionally conservative state.
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