The president of Louisiana's lottery said Alabama should be careful in how it drafts lottery legislation and cautioned against defining the game too narrowly.
Louisiana Lottery President Rose Hudson and New Hampshire Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre spoke to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's advisory council on gaming yesterday.
Both states have long-established lotteries that provide money for public education.
To establish a lottery in Alabama, the Legislature would have to pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would be subject to approval by voters.
"I would say sweat the details, but sweat the details at the correct level," Hudson told the council. "That is, do it at the front end."
If the Alabama Legislature seriously considers a lottery next year, one key detail will likely be the definition of a lottery.
That definition was a sticking point in the lottery bill that failed during a special session in August.
The bill passed the Senate. The House added an amendment by Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, that defined a lottery essentially as the game is traditionally known -- paper tickets with a series of numbers that can allow the holder to win in a daily, weekly or monthly drawing.
The definition also allowed for tickets allowing instant winners, called scratch-offs.
The House passed the bill with Rowe's amendment, but the amendment raised opposition in the Senate, and the bill died.
Some senators wanted to allow the state's greyhound tracks to install video lottery terminals, which look like slot machines and can offer instant winnings.
Rowe is a member of the governor's council and asked Hudson about defining a lottery in the traditional sense.
Hudson advised against a narrow definition of a lottery because it would make it hard to adjust to evolving versions of the games, such as online games.
"That definition may not cut the mustard and would keep you out of the game," Hudson said.
Rowe said polls have indicated that a majority of Alabamians, including those in her district, want a chance to vote on a lottery. She said what most people have in mind is the game they play when they cross the state line into Florida, Georgia or Tennessee and buy a ticket at a convenience store.
"We do not need to do something down here that is a misrepresentation of what our people back in our districts believe we're down here voting on," Rowe said.
"If we don't have a definition that clearly defines that, it can just shape-shift into some really interesting things that could be well beyond what the constituency that I represent had in mind."
Bentley announced the creation of the advisory council in October after his plan for a lottery to support the state budget died during the special session.
Alabama is one of six states without a lottery.
According to a report by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, 27 states saw lottery revenues decline from 2014 to 2015.
But lotteries in southeastern states experienced growth in revenue from 2008 to 2015, according to the report.
Lottery revenues have grown in Louisiana, where voters approved a lottery in 1990.
Total lottery sales in fiscal year 2016 were $507 million, an all-time record for the state. Lottery sales in Louisiana have risen every year but one since 2007, when sales were $354 million.
For each dollar in lottery sales, 53 cents is returned to players in winnings, and 35 percent is dedicated to K-12 education, a requirement Louisiana voters added to the state constitution in 2004.
New Hampshire was the first state to have a modern lottery, in 1964.
Sixty-two percent of lottery revenue goes to prizes, while 26 percent goes to New Hampshire schools.
Adjusted gross lottery revenue in New Hampshire rose in nine of the years between 2000 and 2015, while declining in some other years, especially in the wake of the Great Recession.
In 2015, adjusted gross revenues rose slightly, to $283 million, netting $74 million for education.
The gambling council meets again on Dec. 15. It is to report its findings to the governor and the Legislature in January.