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Opinion | There’s no lottery vote because some Senate Republicans sold out

Despite a number of excuses and ridiculous rewrites of history, you don’t get to vote because some Senate Republicans sold out.

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More than a week after the end of the 2024 legislative session and the excuse-making for the failure of gambling legislation is still going strong. 

And the absurdity of it is overwhelming. Especially the absurdity coming from the Alabama Senate Republicans. 

Let’s be clear: Alabama voters are not going to get a chance to vote on gambling legislation because of 15 Alabama senators. 

There’s no other way around that. 

Oh, but they’ve tried to get around it. They’ve tried everything in the world to explain away the manner in which they sold out their constituents. 

From Sen. Chris Elliott and other Senate Republicans attempting to claim that the House failed to pass their lottery-only legislation to Sen. Arthur Orr saying during a radio interview that House members were told that the senate couldn’t accept a bill containing more than a lottery and bingo, the rewrite of history has been something to behold. 

Orr also said during that interview that people primarily only wanted to vote on a lottery and made it seem as if they weren’t interested in any other forms of gambling – an attempt to make it seem as if those 15 senators were protecting the public from an unwanted expansion of gambling. 

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It’s BS. 

First off, a lottery is not popular. An EDUCATION lottery is popular. 

To my knowledge, the Senate never offered the people of Alabama an opportunity to vote on an education lottery, in which all of the lottery proceeds would go towards a scholarship program and specific education-related expenses, as lotteries in our surrounding states do. 

In fact, the lottery bill offered by Orr and his pals this year contained funding for infrastructure, the general fund and one-third for “general education.” No one wants that nonsense. Because that’s a slush fund for brother-in-law projects. 

The reason the House offered a comprehensive gambling bill is because polling indicated that a majority of Alabamians wanted an opportunity to vote for several forms of gambling. And by doing so, the state could significantly increase the amount of revenue generated, paying for several projects. Among them, an education-only lottery. 

Also, for the millionth time: There. Is. No. Such. Thing. As. A. Lottery-only. Bill. 

Not in Alabama. Because of the manner in which we’ve allowed our laws and federal laws to develop, particularly in regards to our plethora of constitutional amendments and the manner in which federal laws dictate what can and can’t happen on tribal lands. 

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Put simply: If a lawmaker uses the terms “clean lottery bill” or “lottery-only bill,” that person is either lying to you or has no idea what he/she is talking about. 

Or, in the case of Senate Republicans, they need you to ignore the fact that they obviously sold you out. Because that’s what they did. 

And that becomes very obvious if you remember recent history. 

All of this “the House version was just too expansive” and “Alabamians don’t want all that gaming” nonsense from Senate Republicans, as they hold themselves up as guardians of public safety, is completely undone by one fact. The Senate passed almost an identical comprehensive gambling bill twice in very recent history. 

The last time was three years ago, when the legislation passed easily out of the senate, 23-9. The enabling legislation, which detailed the six casino licenses, sports wagering, an education lottery and a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, was approved 30-2. 

Elliott voted to approve the bill. 

Senators were so upset after that 2021 session because their comprehensive gambling package failed to pass, they told the House that it should take up any future gambling legislation. 

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That’s what the House did, taking months to study the issue. It developed virtually the same bill. 

 But this time, when it landed in the senate, there was no leadership steering it through and protecting members from the special interest groups. Which meant threats were more impactful and promises of future higher offices weren’t offset by the consequences of losing standing within the caucus. 

I should also point out something else here. There’s a lot of blame being placed with the Poarch Creeks, and I get the sense that much of it is being done in an effort to shift blame from the lawmakers whose job it was to make this decision. It reeks of bigotry and desperation. 

Whatever officials from PCI did or didn’t do, they did what they felt was in the best interest of their tribal members and their communities. That’s what they’re supposed to do. 

That’s what our lawmakers are supposed to be doing for us. 

If our wishes and goals and best interests don’t align with those of the Poarch Creeks, our lawmakers are supposed to serve us. They’re not supposed to be influenced by PCI contributions or threats of Alfa funding primary candidates. They’re supposed to do what’s right for us. 

If they don’t, it’s not PCI’s fault. Or Alfa’s fault. Or the fault of any other group that’s doling out contributions or that holds some political sway. 

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When that comprehensive bill landed in the senate way back near the start of this session, it was not a surprise to anyone. Every senator knew it was coming. They all knew what was going to be in that bill. It had been talked about for weeks, and many of them had been present at various meetings in which the contents had been discussed in detail. And there had been assurances given that everyone was on the same page, the votes were there, this was the future for the state. 

The House carried through on its promises. The special interests did exactly what everyone expected them to do. 

Only one group sold out.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Hopefully, for Alabama’s sake, you have not heard the last of this issue.