Legislation moves one step closer to establishing a state-run lottery
By Kate Northrop
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A lottery and casino bill put forward by Alabama Senator Del Marsh was unanimously approved this morning to move on to the full State Senate for discussion.
Alabama lawmakers are so far successfully re-entering the conversation around legalizing gambling within the state, which includes the implementation of a state-run lottery that could potentially garner hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Yesterday, Marsh filed a constitutional amendment that would allow for the approval of a state lottery, sports betting, and five casinos.
Should the full Senate approve the bill and amendment, voters, with House approval, would have the final say on whether the state decides to legalize gambling and adopt a state lottery. More specifically, they would have to approve the amendment to the state's constitution before gambling were legalized. The last time that was tried in 1999 voters rejected the amendment.
"I think the people in this state are ready to address this issue, and polling data shows they want to make a vote," Marsh argued on Tuesday. "My job is to put together a piece of legislation that serves the needs of the state, controls gaming, and provides a revenue to accomplish things the people of Alabama want to see accomplished."
The bill proposed the establishment of an Alabama Education Lottery. According to Marsh, revenue generated from the lottery would fund college scholarships based on need, merit, and workforce requirements in the state, including vocational work.
Marsh hopes that the bill reaches the Senate floor for discussion tomorrow and expects adjustments before it is voted on. He plans on addressing questions and concerns about the bill ten days later when the Senate returns from a recess.
"I think there will definitely be changes made [before the vote,]" Marsh suggested during the committee meeting.
In addition to a state-run lottery, Marsh's bill specifies five designated locations for "casino-style" gaming in the state: the Birmingham Race Course in Jefferson County, Victoryland in Macon County, Greenetrack in Greene County, and the Mobile Greyhound Racing facility in Mobile Countys. The final location would be built either in Jackson or DeKalb County and would be overseen by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Gaming activity in the state would be regulated by a proposed Alabama Gaming Commission consisting of seven members serving four-year terms, four of which would be appointed by the governor, and the other three individual selected by the Speaker of the Alabama House, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Alabama Attorney General.
A Gaming Trust Fund would also be established to receive money from license fees, fees from a compact negotiated by the Governor, and proceeds of the tax on net gaming revenue. The bill states that 75% of the funds go to the General Fund, where the first $1 billion would be for the statewide development and expansion of broadband. After that, a portion would be allocated to rural health care and mental health services.