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Opinion | Alabama lottery: What’s at stake

Josh Moon

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Over the past few weeks, I have written a number of stories and columns detailing the specifics of potential lottery bills and what their effect on this state and its tax revenues might be.

I’m sorry.

Not for writing those pieces, because they contained important and accurate information, but because I didn’t first adequately explain what’s at stake. I didn’t present you with the basic, real-world facts so you could judge everything in its appropriate context.

So, let’s try that with this super simple breakdown.

Alabama: Currently, the state receives ZERO tax dollars from gambling operations. Three Poarch Creek facilities operate in the state. Alabamians also spend an estimated $1 billion annually playing the lotteries or gambling in our neighboring states of Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida.

Tennessee: Thanks in part to Alabama gamblers slipping across the state line to buy lottery tickets, the Tennessee lottery has generated more than $4.8 billion for education and provided more than 1.3 million college scholarships to its in-state students. Tennessee also provides FREE after-school programs to all children, easing the burden of childcare on working families, and it has recently made ALL two-year colleges free. That includes tech schools for job training.

Georgia: Thanks in part to Alabama gamblers slipping across the state line to buy lottery tickets, the Georgia Lottery has provided more than $8 billion to education in the state and provided more than 1.8 million scholarships to in-state students. It also has sent 1.6 million students through its statewide pre-K program, spending another $5 billion to get its kids off to a good start.

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Florida: Thanks in part to Alabama gamblers slipping across the state line to buy lottery tickets or gamble in its state’s Indian casinos (which pay taxes because Florida has a compact with the Seminole tribe), Florida has pumped more than $5 billion into its education programs and sent more than 800 thousand students to college on scholarships. It has also used gaming revenue to support various before- and after-school programs and to provide teacher raises.

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Mississippi: Thanks in part to Alabama gamblers slipping across the state line to visit Mississippi casinos, the state has received more than $169 million in tax revenue this fiscal year. Much of that money is used to prop up various state programs because Mississippi doesn’t earmark gaming money for education, but school systems in counties where gaming is legal have experienced significant benefits. In 2017, the state reported that after 25 years of gaming, it had received more than $6.5 billion in tax dollars and over $638 million for local education.  

Poarch Creeks: Thanks to Alabama residents gambling in their electronic bingo casinos, PCI has been able to offer scholarships to all graduating seniors who qualify. It also funds a variety of before- and after-school programs, provides yearly bonuses to all tribal members, offers free GED programs to members, has free job training programs for members, purchases school supplies for children and offers an incentive program of $20 to $30 for any child that makes the A or A/B Honor Roll.

Summary: Over the last 25 years, Alabamians playing the lottery or gambling in nearby states or at Poarch Creek facilities have pumped billions of dollars into their coffers and sent more than 4 million kids to college for free. Millions of other kids in those states have received quality job training, professional certifications or a two-year degree for free. Millions of parents in those states and on the reservation have saved thousands of dollars in after-school care and on tutoring programs.

Consider where millions of Alabama students would be today if not burdened with hefty college loans or if they hadn’t decided against college or professional training because of the expense. That is a generation of Alabamians left lagging behind. A generation left with debt. A generation that will never catch up.

All because we can’t seem to elect politicians who will allow us to vote to approve the games we’re already playing.

 

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