Lottery bill dead according to lawmakers

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A lottery bill is defunct for the legislative session, a key lawmaker said Wednesday.

“It’s dead for this session. It won’t be coming back this session,” said Republican Rep. Steve Clouse, who was shepherding the bill in the House of Representatives.

The bill hit a politically fatal mix of conservative opposition to gambling and longstanding feuds over electronic gambling and how to use lottery revenue. Clouse said they do not have the 63 bipartisan votes needed to pass the measure in the 105-member House of Representatives.

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The proposed constitutional amendment would have authorized a state lottery played with paper tickets but not with video lottery terminals. The measure cleared the Senate without a vote to spare, but stalled in the House on Tuesday night. Supporters were one vote short of the number required to bring the bill up for debate Tuesday night.

Rep. Wes Allen, R-Pike, said confusion reigned in the House, leading to the bill’s death.

“There were a lot of questions surrounding this lottery proposal and it never made it to the floor for debate,” Allen said. “It may come back in the next session.”

Clouse said it became apparent Wednesday that they could not break through the stalemate.

House Democrats told reporters Wednesday that they wanted more accountability as to how the funds from the lottery would be spent, arguing for specific earmarks on spending and to steer more money to education.

The lottery legislation faced opposition from some Republicans opposed to legalizing gambling. It also faced opposition from some lawmakers who wanted to allow electronic gambling machines at state dog tracks so the tracks can compete with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Rep. Merika Coleman, a Democrat from Pleasant Grove, said she feared the general funds would be used to fund prison structures instead of other needs, such as Medicaid expansion.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to deliver services and support to our constituents,” Coleman said

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels agreed that the bill was likely dead for the session.

“I don’t personally expect the lottery to be brought up for a vote for the remainder of the session” Daniels said.

Clouse said continued disputes over allowing electronic gambling machines at the two tracks constituted the “final straw.”

Alabama is one of five states — along with Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada — without a state lottery.

Alabama voters last went to the polls on the idea of a lottery in 1999, when they rejected a lottery proposed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman.

Then-Gov. Robert Bentley in 2016 called for a state lottery in response to a state budget crisis, but the measure failed under similar disagreements.

Clouse said the stalemate is frustrating for state voters who want to see a lottery in Alabama.

“I know they are disappointed. I am disappointed too,” Clouse said.

He said legislators frequently are asked by constituents “why they can’t go buy a Powerball ticket in Alabama and have to go Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and soon to be Mississippi.”