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Alabama lottery plan approved by committee

May 16, 2019, 7:01 am

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A plan to allow voters to decide whether to set up a state lottery in Alabama advanced Wednesday in the House of Representatives.

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved the bill. The committee had held a public hearing last week but did not vote.

Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, is sponsor of the legislation, which passed the Senate. But the committee today approved a substitute for Albritton's bill by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, who chairs the House General Fund budget committee.

Clouse's plan directs 75 percent of lottery revenues to the General Fund and 25 percent to the Education Trust Fund. Albritton's bill had split the money between the General Fund, a reserve account and the Alabama Trust Fund, with none going to education.

The committee adopted an amendment today to allocate 0.25 percent of net lottery revenue to programs to help compulsive gamblers.

The Alabama Constitution prohibits lotteries, so voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment to allow one.

But first it has to get through the Legislature. That would require 63 votes in the House, three-fifths of the members.

Clouse said he expects the vote to be close. He said he does not expect the bill to be considered in the House until next week.

Clouse said there are two main factions opposed to the bill — those who flatly oppose a lottery and those who oppose a lottery that doesn't include electronic machines in Macon and Greene counties, which have pari-mutuel betting and bingo.

Those factions were in place in 2016, when a lottery plan proposed by Gov. Robert Bentley during a special session failed.

"It's getting to be exhausting as far as this whole issue of gambling as far as machines vs. just paper lottery tickets," Clouse said. "And I think most legislators around the state are really getting frustrated with going home and their constituents asking them, particularly when there's big Power Balls around the nation, why is it that we can't buy our tickets here in Alabama."

In 1999, the Legislature approved a lottery plan by Gov. Don Siegelman, but voters rejected it.

The Legislative Services Agency estimates that a lottery would raise about $167 million a year in net revenue, after prizes and expenses are paid.


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