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The Alabama Senate narrowly defeated a measure to establish a lottery and legalise up to ten casinos and sports betting in the state, putting an end to the current attempt to bring the gambling problem before voters for the first time in more than two decades.
Following the defeat, a lottery bill was passed, keeping the possibility of a state lottery alive in The Yellowhammer State for the time being.
The Bellingham Herald reports that Republican Senator Del Marsh’s initiative falls two votes short of the 21 expected to pass the controversial constitutional amendment through Alabama’s 35-member Senate on Tuesday.
Senators voted 19-13 in favour of the measure to establish a state lottery, seven casinos, and a casino-games treaty with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians at their three places.
Gambling is not a ‘dead issue’
Following the loss of his bill, Marsh claimed that he believes gambling is not a “dead issue” and that it will be revisited “sooner or later.”
Alabama residents previously got a chance to vote on a gaming problem in 1999, when they defeated then-Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposed state lottery. According to Marsh, polling reveals that Alabamians want to revisit the problem.
He stated: “It was the people who were going to make this decision … I’m just really a bit surprised that we didn’t let them do it.”
Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama, who had called for bringing the gaming issue before voters, said she is ready to focus on it again if legislators do so.
Gambling is complex and challenging
In a statement, Ivey said: “Today’s vote by the Alabama Senate confirms more work must be done because this issue is too important to not get it right. No doubt gambling is complex and challenging, but I remain committed to giving the people of Alabama the final say.”
Owing to conservative objections to gaming and a turf battle over which companies may have electronic gambling machines or poker games, any gambling law in Alabama has collapsed over the last two decades.
Republican Senator Jim McClendon proposed a lottery bill shortly after Marsh’s bill was defeated, holding the possibility of a state lottery alive in The Yellowhammer State.
McClendon, who voted in favour of Marsh’s proposal, stated: “People in my district want a dadgum lottery.” In about a week, he wants the bill to be in session.
Marsh had shown trust in his ability to secure the required 21 votes in the weeks leading up to the debate. He added, however, that interest was eroding, and that one senator was under ‘peer pressure’ to reject gambling as a revenue stream.
Republicans voted for the 13 no votes. Some Republicans have voiced concerns about allowing casinos to exist in the state.
State lottery and five casinos
Marsh’s initial bill provided for a state lottery and five casinos, one at each of four existing dog tracks and a fifth in north Alabama owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
It also approved a casino-games agreement with the Poarch Band at their three existing locations, which currently have electronic bingo machines.
After locations in Lowndes and Houston counties requested inclusion, lawmakers added two more sites to the bill on Tuesday. Marsh included Houston County in his replacement bill, and an extension to add Lowndes was approved.
Marsh advocated using lottery proceeds to finance college scholarships and other educational needs, while casino revenue would go toward improving internet coverage and funding rural health care in the state.
According to the Legislative Services Agency, the lottery will collect $194-$279 million a year for college scholarships focused on a combination of need, merit, and employment requirements in the state. The 20 percent tax on gambling profits, according to the department, would raise $260-$393 million a year for the casinos.