By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—As the debate over gambling heats up, one State Senator says he is dead-set against it.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has proposed a Constitutional Amendment that would allow casino-style gambling at seven locations in the State.
“I just can’t bring myself to vote for it, and I won’t, and if I have anything to do with it, I won’t allow a vote in the Senate,” said Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery).
Brewbaker, who describes himself as a pro-family legislator, says it is wrong for government to promote activities that prey on the weakness of its citizens. “There are social scientists who could give us a pretty accurate estimate of how many families we’re going to break up, even how much crime will arise from expanding gambling,” said Brewbaker.
Currently, the State has an estimated $250 million shortfall to maintain basic government services. Gov. Robert Bentley has proposed raising taxes to meet budgetary needs, which has drawn criticism from many lawmakers.
“There are a few senators who are still in favor of adding a cigarette tax and go home. There are some who say that the State needs to live within its means, so that means cuts to services,” Brewbaker said.
He says he is open to looking at a few taxes, but nothing like the broad taxing proposed by the Governor.
Advocates of Marsh’s omnibus gaming plan said that it is like a voluntary tax, because only the people who gamble would have to pay.
“I have to run for office just like everybody else, and I’m not happy about an added tax. But, I would point out that you could argue a cigarette tax is voluntary and we could draw a straight line between tobacco use and increased Medicare/Medicaid expense.”
Again Brewbaker sees gambling as a bad option to fund government and worries about the social cost.
“I just think it’s completely improper for government to resort to imposing an unlimited, voluntary tax on their citizens, especially when the whole purpose is to take advantage of people who may have a weakness,” he said.
As an anti-gambling advocate, Brewbaker sees the irony of having two casinos in his Senate district, operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI). “Yeah, that’s weird isn’t it,” he said.
The PCI have offered to “advance” the State $250 million in exchange for a compact, giving the Tribe a monopoly over all gambling in the State.
“The legal opinion we [the senate] were given at the time was, there is no legal way for us to accept that money,” he said. Even if it were legal, Brewbaker said he would be opposed to the transaction.
Brewbaker believes that during the up-coming Special Session, “…everything is back on the table, but, there are options, in my opinion, than gaming.”