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Ace In Your Face

By Amy Elizabeth McGhee

As budget woes continue to cripple the State of Alabama, one thing remains consistent: The slow moving, stinky sludge that continues to clog the pipes in the Alabama State legislature when it comes to Alabama lottery and gaming legislation.  As lawmakers scramble around the immediate, viable economic solutions that a lottery and gaming expansion offers, the people of this State are left to suffer. It is time for politics to be set aside. It’s time for a conversation – A conversation that might make many uncomfortable, but one that must happen.

One that seems like a natural solution to a long time problem. The dog and pony show has paraded on center stage for far too long . . .and, to be quite honest, it is simply nauseating.  It’s time to call an ace an ace . . . even if the message is a bit in your face.

So, what is really keeping gaming down in Alabama? And, who has the power to derail lottery legislation? It’s not lack of votes or public support….it’s merely the politics of competing interests . . . or, what some would call a good, old-fashioned standoff.

Last year, in both the Regular and Special Legislative Sessions, Alabama Senate Pro Tem, Senator Del Marsh, worked tirelessly to gain support for legislation that would blaze the trail for a State lottery and Vegas style casino gambling at Alabama’s four dog tracks. Unfortunately, Marsh’s legislation, largely favoring the interest of Milton McGregor, was shot down.

Marsh’s efforts were countered by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians – as the Tribe launched a massive PR campaign aimed at trying to influence Governor Bentley to support a Tribal/State compact – where the Tribe committed to offset the budget deficit in full in exchange for exclusive support of the compact. Like Marsh, the Tribe failed to make any headway.

So, what does all of this mean? It means that a political stalemate will be charged off on the backs of Alabamians, as legislators are forced to deal with the shortfall.

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Gambling is already in Alabama and it is here to stay. Expansion of gaming would only serve to generate much-needed revenue for the State.

Rather than continuing in this costly stalemate –  wouldn’t it be prudent for competing interests to work together? Inevitability, this long, painful, factionalized road will lead us nowhere.

I may be naïve, but is there not enough to go around? A unified approach to gaming in Alabama could afford all parties, as well as our great State with a land of plenty. In addition, a collaborative effort would help safeguard Alabama lottery and gaming interest from the meddling of out-of-state forces that strive to keep gaming down in our State. The cost of doing nothing has become far too great to ignore. I call on competing interest to work together. Do the math, figure out how much it is costing everyone to trip over dollars trying to hoard pennies.

With the recent unveiling of several pieces of lottery legislation, it will be interesting to see the complexities of gaming politics unfold during the upcoming legislative session. I encourage everyone to join in on the conversation as the politics of Alabama gaming plays out. Our State is in dire straights. A lottery just might be Alabama’s ace in the hole . . . let us all come together for a collective victory.

“Lottery legislation is a one shot deal. Competing factions are going to have to work together in an effort to push lottery legislation through. Without a unified approach, we are all gonna lose,” stated Alabama House Minority Leader, Craig Ford. Representative Craig Ford announced in a January 12 press release, that he pre-filed his own piece of lottery legislation, The EDUCATION Lottery.

As for a Tribal-State Compact, the offer is still on the table but the message is not resonating: “We are committed to supporting, developing and executing fiscally sound strategy to assist the State of Alabama in this time of economic crisis,” stated Robbie McGhee, Chief Governmental Relations Advisor to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. McGhee further stated, “We are in no way opposed to a lottery and are happy to have a conversation with anyone – at any time when it comes to finding solutions to move Alabama forward. With that being said, we still maintain that, in this time of paramount economic crisis, a Tribal-State Compact is an immediate economic solution for an immediate economic problem.”

Will the ole’ boy network stretch this course out for another decade? Will Alabama have a lottery? Or, will we write this economic nightmare off as, “paid in full,” courtesy of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians?

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Stay tuned.

The stakes are high, the political complexities are deep and the conversation is just
heating up.

Email your thoughts and comments to [email protected]


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