Lottery in Alabama? Will it finally happen? Here’s what you need to know
Could Alabama soon join Mississippi in having a statewide lottery? Dan Gleiter, PennLive, 2016 PENNLIVE.COM
The Alabama Senate passed the lottery bill by a vote of 21-12, yesterday, advancing the measure to the House. If approved there, it will go on the ballot for voters in the March 2020 presidential primary.
Alabama voters could soon have their say on a statewide lottery.
Here’s what you need to know about the latest chapter in the long – and complicated – history of efforts to bring a lottery to Alabama.
Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, has introduced a measure to establish a lottery in Alabama. The proposal cleared its first hurdle Tuesday, winning approval – albeit on a close 6-5 vote – from the Senate Tourism Committee. The measure now goes to the full Senate which could vote as soon as this week. If approved in the upper chamber, it moves to the House.
It takes approval by three-fifths of senators and representatives to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.
What would legislative approval mean?
Legislators would not be the final say on the lottery. The lottery would require a constitutional amendment and that would have to be approved by state voters.
What kind of lottery would Alabama have?
Albritton’s bill would limit the lottery to multi-state or intrastate games played with paper tickets and instant tickets, such as Lotto. It excludes any forms of electronic gaming, including video lottery terminals, internet-based video or casino-style games. The bill would not change the status of any of the current forms of legal gambling in the state.
How much money would the lottery generate?
Fiscal notes on the bill estimates it would bring in as much as $167 million a year, after payouts and expenses.
What would the money be used for?
Initially, revenue from the lottery would be used to repay the Alabama Trust Fund, which transferred $184 million to the General Fund to balance the state budgets in 2013, 2014 and 2015. After that, the proceeds would be split evenly between Alabama Trust Fund and the General Fund.
What does Gov. Kay Ivey think?
During her campaign, Ivey said “if people want to vote (on a lottery), that is fine.”
Critics aren’t convinced
The Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank, has been vocal in opposition to the lottery.
“Lotteries are often marketed as merely a form of entertainment, one that can be converted into a public good by investing the proceeds into education or other government programs. While this view is appealing on the surface, it is more accurate to think of the lottery as a tax,” API said in a statement. “Lottery players lose an average of 47 cents on the dollar for each ticket, and with such low payouts, tickets act as an implicit tax of 38 percent. Thus, the revenue derived from a lottery can be thought of as an excise tax on playing the lottery, especially considering the extremely low odds of winning.
“Any source of revenue that preys on the poor and vulnerable to be successful is wrong. A lottery is more than just a personal vice that affects the individual who chooses to do it; it is an economic injustice that Alabamians of all political leanings should oppose,” the group added.
When was the last lottery vote?
Alabamians last voted on a statewide lottery in 1999, when they rejected Gov. Don Siegelman’s plan for an Education Lottery. The referendum failed in a 54-46 percent vote amid heavy pressure from religious groups.
Former Gov. Robert Bentley proposed a statewide lottery in 2016 in response to a state budget crisis. Bentley’s measure was approved by the Senate but didn’t clear the House.
States without a lottery
Alabama is one of six states that don’t have a lottery. Currently, Alabama, Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah don’t participate in a lottery, though that’s scheduled to change later this year in Mississippi, which expects to begin gaming this year. Nevada, home to gambling hub Las Vegas, has resisted a lottery for fear it would cut into casino profits.
How other states use lottery money
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, on average, about 1 percent of state revenue comes from lotteries, with proceeds most often going towards education. Sometimes the money goes into the general fund but it is typically pledged towards special projects, like schools or infrastructure.
At last count, there were 11 states in which lottery revenues exceeded revenues from corporate taxes.
How will Mississippi use its lottery money?
Mississippi’s lottery calls for the first $80 million in revenue to go towards road and bridge construction. Any revenue over $80 million will go to the Education Enhancement Fund to benefit education.
The Mississippi lottery is expected to raise $40 million the first year. After 10 years, that first $80 million goes to the state’s general fund.
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