MONTGOMERY, Ala. — By a vote of 5-3, the Alabama Senate Tourism Committee on Thursday approved Sen. Del Marsh's (R-Anniston) lottery and gambling expansion plan. It now proceeds to the full Senate for consideration.
If passed into law, Alabama voters would have the opportunity to approve a constitutional amendment legalizing a state-sponsored lottery and casino gaming. That vote would likely take place September 15, two weeks before the end of the current fiscal year. The bill would tax casino earnings at 13 percent tax and funnel that money into the General Fund. Lottery revenues would be placed in a trust until the legislature convenes to decide how they are to be appropriated.
Marsh's bill would also form an Alabama Lottery Corporation to administer the lotto, and the Alabama Lottery and Gaming Commission to oversee all gambling in the state.
Alabama lottery and casino gaming would have a $1.2 billion annual economic impact for the state and generate almost $400 million in new revenue for state programs, according to a study by the Institute for Accountability and Government Efficiency at Auburn University of Montgomery. In addition, the study found that more than 11,000 new jobs would be created if casino gaming were allowed at the current facilities located in Mobile, Birmingham, Macon and Greene County.
While Marsh may have the support to shuttle his proposal through the Senate, he will likely run into trouble in the House. Speaker Mike Hubbard leans toward accepting an offer by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to cover the state's budget shortfall for one year in return for exclusive rights to gaming in the state.
"The question is, do you want to go in and give a monopoly to the Indians, but it doesn't have any job creation component, or any economic development?" Marsh said in response to that proposal. "If we're trying to look at long term solutions, which option is better to deal with that?"
Governor Robert Bentley has also indicated that he will not support using gambling revenues instead of tax increases to balance the budget. Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), the powerful chairman of the Senate Education Budget Committee, said he will not only oppose Marsh's plan, but will filibuster the bill when it comes to the Senate floor.
Marsh said he plans to continue efforts to streamline state government and cut waste, but believes more revenue may be needed to solve the state's budget issues.
"There are serious funding problems that cannot be solved only through additional budget cuts," he said. "Health care and prisons costs continue to rise, while we struggle to meet the obligations of essential state services for our children and seniors. We now face a hard, but clear choice: face the threat of raising taxes on the people of Alabama, or find new sources of revenue for essential state services. This is a big question, one so big it should not be made by the Alabama Legislature alone. I believe this decision, this choice, should be made by the people of Alabama. Let them decide the basic question: Higher taxes or new sources of revenue. I trust their wisdom and judgment on this matter."
Voting in favor of the gambling plan in committee were senators Beasley, Marsh, Sanford, Singleton and Smitherman. Voting against were senators Albritton, Melson and Pittman.
Power to the People. They deserve the right to vote for their Lottery.
It's a no brainer! Millions of dollars are leaving the state every year, raising revenue for other states.
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good!
Yes and now the money will go to Alabama,mine included.
To keep the pressure on state politicians, play other state lotteries and let everyone know, including politicians. It will concentrate their minds. If you can't travel out of state, you can subscribe to the Massachusetts Lottery by phone.
As an Alabama resident, I'm pessimistic that this will pass. Even if it does pass the Senate, it probably won't even see the light of day in the House, let alone pass there. I think Bentley will get his way eventually and tax raises will be forthcoming for Alabama residents. Alabama already fully taxes their groceries, and that will go up. Not to mention higher sales tax (I'm hearing 12%) paying sales tax on Internet purchases regardless of whether or not the online store has a physical presence in Alabama, paychecks will be lower, the works. Sucks to be an Alabamian. But all I can do is pray.