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Opinion | If Alabama is going to have a lottery, it needs to be an education lottery

It is worth noting that every state that borders Alabama has a successful education lottery.

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I was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2006. I have served District 66 for the last 18 years and am proud to consider myself an advocate for public education. Each session is different from the last, but one issue that almost always seems to come around session after session is gaming.

Let me be clear: I am not a gamer nor do I advocate for gaming expansion in the state of Alabama. I do, however, know full and well that we have a problem that has gotten completely out of control. Earlier this session, I voted in favor of HB151 and HB152, and my decision was based on reflecting the pulse of my district with three primary concerns that surfaced over and over.

The first concern is that gaming is already here. It has been here for years, and it’s time we regulate the gaming that already exists in our State and receive tax revenues thereof. We desperately need regulation and enforcement guardrails in place, particularly towards eliminating the rampant illegal gaming while taxing the legal gaming.

The second is that the people of Alabama, even if not a gamer like myself, want to vote on this issue. They see Alabama dollars flowing in huge volumes out of our State to surrounding States. I have seen the polling and have heard the pulse of my district. It’s a choice Alabamians want to have the opportunity to make.

The third big concern is what citizens of Alabama are seeing in other states – states in which Alabamians are playing the lottery and what those states have been able to do with a lottery that supports education and education only. The additional dollars for funding education outside the normal education budget could allow for education extras such as last dollar scholarship programs.

It is worth noting that every state that borders Alabama has a successful education lottery that produces millions for its students. With the flow of Bama dollars into surrounding states, it would be of interest to know how much money Alabamians have contributed over the last 20 years to benefit education in Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Florida.

The House did what I and many others felt was the right pathway when we ensured the lottery would benefit education and education only. 

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So, if Alabama is going to have a lottery, it needs to be an education lottery. We need to shut down illegal operators and properly regulate and tax what remains.

Alan Baker is a Republican member of the Alabama House of Representatives, representing House District 66 in Baldwin and Escambia counties.

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