Alabama State Sen. Jim McClendon of Springville announced this morning he is introducing legislation to set up an Alabama lottery.
"The people of Alabama have convinced me, the people in my district, that they would like to be able to buy a lottery ticket without having to drive to another state," McClendon said. "They'd like to be able to buy a lottery ticket just like folks in 45 states across our nation can do."
McClendon is a Republican who sponsored lottery legislation in 2016. That legislation failed during a special session called by Gov. Robert Bentley to address problems with the General Fund budget, especially Medicaid.
McClendon said today his lottery proposal is not intended to solve budget problems. He proposes dividing the net lottery revenue equally between the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund.
The Alabama Constitution prohibits lotteries, so any proposal would have to be approved by voters in a constitutional amendment.
Voters had that chance in 1999 but rejected a lottery plan led by Gov. Don Siegelman.
Although lottery bills are proposed every year, none have passed the Legislature since. It takes approval by three-fifths of senators and representatives to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.
McClendon said his preference would be to have the question on the ballot in the presidential primary in March 2020 because a large number of voters would be participating.
Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have lotteries in place, and the Mississippi Legislature approved lottery legislation last year, meaning that Alabama is now surrounded by lottery states.
McClendon said his plan includes two bills -- the proposed constitutional amendment and a separate bill that would, among other things, allocate the money equally between the ETF and the General Fund. McClendon said putting the allocation in the constitutional amendment would have prevented the Legislature from being able to reallocate the funds if needs dictated that.
Other provisions in the bill:
It would set up an Alabama Lottery Commission with two members appointed by the governor and one by the lieutenant governor, president pro tem of the Senate and Speaker of the House.
The commission would issue a request for proposals to hire a private corporation to manage the lottery. The corporation would not be allowed to contribute to candidates or political action committees.
The commission would determine what lottery games are played, including interstate lottery games.
No casino games, such as blackjack, craps or roulette, would be allowed.
The commission would issue one license per county for video lottery terminals in Greene, Jefferson, Lowndes, Macon and Mobile counties. Those are counties that now have facilities that offer parimutuel betting and electronic bingo through local constitutional amendments.
Money would be set aside to set up a program to help compulsive gamblers through the Alabama Department of Public Health.
McClendon estimated that a lottery could generate net revenue of about $250 million for the state. He said that would depend on what games are allowed by the lottery commission.
McClendon said he believes there's a better chance for lottery legislation to pass this year than three years ago. That year, his bill passed the House and Senate but the two chambers could not agree on a single version.
"This time it's a different story," McClendon said. "We've got different legislators and it's a different time. So, I feel that this bill is much more likely to meet success than ones we've had in the past. I've talked to quite a few of our new legislators and they don't have some of this built-in prejudice that some of our other legislators had. I feel pretty good about it."
The Legislature resumes its regular session today after completing a special session last week. Lawmakers passed Gov. Kay Ivey's plan to raise state fuel taxes by 10 cents a gallon over three years to support road construction and maintenance.