Alabama should consider the lottery

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, has called for the Alabama House of Representatives to use the 2014 legislative session to establish a lottery to benefit the state education system in Alabama.

Ford said he believes establishing a lottery will raise around $250 million for the state.

Republican leaders do not believe a lottery is feasible in the state of Alabama since it has been voted down in the past.

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Regardless of what the Legislature decides to do, Alabama needs to establish a lottery.

Alabama is currently one of only six states in the union to not offer a lottery.

While some people may not believe that a lottery is a particularly effective means of raising funds, recent research from the University of California-Santa Barbara shows that lotteries are an effective fundraising tool when no other reasonable alternatives are available.

In an article entitled ‘Financing Public Goods by Means of Lotteries,’ the author, John Morgan, demonstrates that lotteries “increase the provision of the public good, are welfare improving, and provide levels of the public good close to first-best as the lottery prize increases.”

While it is true that traditional taxes have been found to increase the public good more efficiently, Alabama is in a unique position in regard to traditional taxes. As a conservative state, Alabama is unlikely to approve any additional taxes, much less taxes to fund education.

It’s not as if all of Alabama’s citizens are opposed to playing lotteries. A large number of Alabama residents play lotteries in Georgia, Florida and Alabama. When Alabama citizens buy lottery tickets in other states, it directly takes money out of the state economy and puts it in to the economies of other states.

Georgia’s lottery helps to fund the HOPE scholarship, which provides financial scholarships to high school students based entirely on merit. Alabama lacks a comparable scholarship.

With Alabama schools in proration as recently as 2011, it is clear that the public schooling system needs additional funding. When teachers have to spend their own money to provide classroom supplies, it is clear that the system has failed.

While establishing a lottery in Alabama may not solve all the state’s education funding problems, it will at least help to stop the bleeding while alternatives are considered.