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Opinion | The lottery is dead. Long live the lottery

The paper-only lottery bill appears to have mercifully died in the House.

It should have failed in the Senate because it was never more than a diversion to ensure that no lottery bill would endanger the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ monopoly over gaming in the state.

The so-called “clean” paper-only lottery sponsored by Sen. Greg Albritton — the tribe’s senator — was always a ploy to kill a comprehensive lottery measure offered by Sen. Jim McClendon.

McClendon’s bill and its enabling legislation would have created over 10,000 jobs, resulted in nearly half a billion annually for the state and offered gaming competition that would benefit lottery players.

Albritton’s bill was merely a kabuki dance to please the Poarch Creeks.

No one should want the Poarch Creeks to fail, but why do they not want the state to succeed?

It’s easy to understand the tribe’s motivation; they want to protect their own. But shouldn’t our state Legislature want to do what’s best for the people of our state?

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The Poarch Creeks remind the state all the time that they are a sovereign nation. Their sovereign nation status is a congressionally established way to keep the state from prying into their business. Is it not also fair for the state to push back against the Poarch Creeks poking their noses in to ours? Is not Alabama a sovereign state?

Recently, the Tribe has complained about some of APR‘s reporting and specifically mine. I report facts based on sound sources. And when I offer my opinion on gaming, it is because I believe the people of Alabama need someone to stand up for them because too many in the Republican Legislature fail to do so.

From an ethical standpoint, I can argue against gaming and my personal belief is it is a fool’s bargain because it is a zero-sum game for money. But I also recognize that the state has gaming and the Poarch Creeks should not control it all.

We could have had a robust and reasonable lottery bill that would have heavily taxed and strictly regulated gaming, but Albritton, with the aid of Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, crushed all hope of a good bill passing.

Now, once again, the people will be the ones who pay the price for the Legislature’s failure.

I’m glad Albritton’s Poarch Creek bill died, not because of the tribe, but because it was terrible for the state.

The Tribe has signaled a willingness to negotiate a good-faith comprehensive gaming bill.

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The one presented to APR‘s Josh Moon is tilted in the extreme toward profiting the Poarch Creeks, but it is hopefully a starting place.

Opinion | Forget a paper lottery, the Poarch Creeks have a much bigger proposal for gambling in Alabama

What is truly disheartening is that so many of our lawmakers serve the Poarch Creeks above the state. They never swore an oath to the Poarch Creeks, but they did to the people of Alabama.

Lawmakers should follow an old political custom for accepting campaign donations: “I can take your money, drink your whiskey and smoke your cigars and still vote against you. If I can’t do that, I don’t need your money.”

And so it is that the lottery seems dead.

Let’s hope the Poarch Creeks will come to the bargaining table for gaming legislation that profits everyone, not just their tribe.

The lottery is dead, but as we say so often in our state, “There’s always next year.” Long live the lottery.

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Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.


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