MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Tuesday night, Alabama state senators passed a constitutional amendment, along with three companion bills, to allow a lottery to be created in the state and allow for casino-style gambling.
The constitutional amendments include a comprehensive plan that incudes a simple lottery — one that only allows people to buy tickets in person or online, and creates a broader system that would also allow for casino-style gambling.
Senators passed the constitutional amendment 23-9. It now goes to the state House of Representatives. The final version that comes out of the House will have to be approved by Alabama voters.
"Every time I go back to my district, the message is clear: people want to have the right to vote on a state lottery and gaming," said Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville. "I appreciate the input from my colleagues in the Senate and the willingness of members of the House of Representatives and the governor's office to participate in a discussion about this transformational issue for our state. I am hopeful about the potential of getting this constitutional amendment in front of Alabamians so that they have a chance to make the final call on this critical decision for the future of our state."
This legislation, SB319, if approved by Alabama voters, will produce up to $710 million of revenue annually for the state of Alabama, according to a report by the Governor's Study Group on Gambling, and the legislation will also control and cap gaming already existing in the state.
The plan sets up gaming operations in six locations: Jefferson County, Mobile County, Macon County, Greene County, Houston County, and Jackson or DeKalb counties. It also sets up a gaming commission and addresses the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
The Senate also adopted three companion bills dealing with gaming.
The first, SB309, outlines duties of the Alabama Lottery Corporation, establishes a lottery trust fund and use of proceeds for college scholarships, what to do with unclaimed lottery winnings, and allows retailers to sell lottery tickets.
SB310 will set up a gaming commission if the constitutional amendment is approved by the voters, states $750 million for broadband implementation, and has components for mental health and rural hospitals to receive portion of proceeds.
The third bill, SB311, prohibits certain campaign contributions and addresses criminal activity.
"This has been a long time coming. The people of Alabama deserve the right to be able to vote on gaming, and they have wanted this chance for the past 20 years. This vote will allow our residents to finally reap the benefits of gaming, by allowing those who play games in Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, or Tennessee to now play those same games at home," Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. "This vote has the potential to be a major game-changer for our education and healthcare systems. I'm proud to be a part of this legislative body and this is a great day for the state of Alabama."
The Senate already passed another lottery bill that defines how the lottery would work, how its structure would be overseen and where the money would go. It's up to the House now to approve that bill as well.