By Bill Britt and Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Legislation from Sen. Jim McClendon proposing a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment to approve or reject a statewide lottery is expected later today. A draft of the legislation obtained by the Alabama Political Reporter over the weekend provides some insight as to what the bill may contain.
“McLottery” is the nickname APR has given this legislation. The bill contains several major points which have already been subject to rumors, innuendo, and outright lies.
According to the draft, it allows the people to vote up or down on the constitutional amendment. If approved, it will establish a statewide lottery and the Alabama Lottery Corporation, create the Alabama Education Legacy Fund, and allow for a bond issue to fund Medicaid immediately.
The constitutional amendment would also authorize an electronic lottery and accompanying regulations for currently licensed pari-mutuel tracks in:
-The City of Birmingham
It will levy a State gross receipts tax of 22 percent, a local gross receipts tax on gaming revenue, an extra 1 percent on racetracks that own equipment, as well as a 4 percent tax on vendors of electronic lottery equipment.
The bill will establish:
A Lottery Commission to implement, regulate, and administer gaming and supervise the Alabama Lottery and the Alabama Lottery Corporation.
It will authorize the Governor to negotiate a compact for gaming with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Approval of a compact would require the ratification of the Legislature.
The bill does not allow for casino-style gambling and doesn’t change the current law governing charitable bingo.
Current ALFA and the Forestry Association are said to be against the bill.
An immediate call to arms was issued by the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) to fight the lottery. According to the group’s website, “The Reverend Joe Godfrey, executive director of ALCAP, will lead churches in the fight against a State lottery in Alabama.”
Proponents of the lottery believe the greatest opposition will come from the Poarch Creek Indians (PCI) in order to protect and guarantee their billion dollar monopoly over gaming in the State. Recently, the Tribe and their lobbyists have begun visiting lawmakers bringing promises (carrots on sticks).
During the 2016 Legislative Session, PCI lobbyists Allison and Phillip Kenny, accompanied by Robbie McGhee, Vice Chair of the Tribal Council, were a constant fixture in the office of convicted felon and former Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard. More opposition is expected from the Mississippi Choctaw as well.
Gov. Bentley has introduced his lottery bill, which doesn’t allow for lottery terminals. He has also appointed a regulating commission.
McClendon’s bill will establish a regulating commission within 60 days and will include appointees by the Governor, Senate Pro-Tem, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House and Agriculture Commissioner. Future replacements of the initial commission will also require approval by the Senate.
According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Office, Bentley’s plan would generate around $225 million annually, with proceeds going to the terribly anemic State General Fund Budget, ostensibly to pay for the burgeoning State Medicaid program.
However, the Legislative Fiscal Office projects the McLottery plan will raise $427 million annually for the State, solve Medicaid’s $85 million budget shortfall for 2017 and create $100 million annually in additional funds for Alabama’s schools.
Another pointed difference between the two bills is that since the McLottery bill includes electronic lottery terminals and establishes a commission within 60 days, the State will begin receiving funds immediately. Bentley’s bill’s proceeds could not be incorporated until the 2017 General Fund Budget, in fall of next year.