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House Committee approves lottery bill

Brandon Moseley

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On Wednesday, the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee gave a favorable report to a constitutional amendment that would create a state lottery in Alabama. Gambling is prohibited by the Alabama 1901 Constitution, so passing a lottery requires amending the Constitution.

Senate Bill 220 is sponsored by State Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore.

The bill was carried in committee by State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark.

SB220 would create a paper lottery only with no video lottery terminals or games played online. Daily scratch offs and participating in a multi-state lottery game like the Power Ball would be authorized.

Clouse said the bill would generate $167 million for state coffers.

The committee amended the bill so that one quarter of 1 percent of the revenue generated would go to compulsive gambling treatment plans.

The SB220, as it passed out of the Senate, earmarked all the money in the state general fund. The committee amended the bill so that 25 percent of the money, an approximated $42 million, would go to the Education Trust Fund.

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State Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham, said she did not like the bill.

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Hollis told reporters that it does not produce enough revenue, not enough money goes to education and it does not do what people think it does.

There were two lottery bills introduced in this session. The other bill would have authorized video lottery terminals at the state’s four existing dog tracks and would authorize online games. This bill does not do any of that as this is a simple paper lottery.

Some of SB220’s critics claim that the bill would be beneficial to the Poarch band of Creek Indians, who operate electronic bingo games in Wetumpka and Atmore. Critics of the bill claim that by not authorizing video lottery terminals or electronic bingo in the state, it gives the Poarch Creek Indians a virtual monopoly on electronic bingo in the state. Supporters dismiss these concerns.

Conservative critics argue that any expansion of gambling in the state will harm families and encourage citizens to become addicted to gambling, while what few revenues generated by the lottery would harm small businesses and lead to reduced sales tax collections.

The Alabama Citizens Action Patrol is opposing the bill.

The bill has already passed the Senate. It can now be considered by the House of Representatives. SB220 is a constitutional amendment, so if passed by the Legislature, it would still have to be approved by a vote of the people during the presidential primaries on March 3, 2020.

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