Alabama House Rejects Lottery Bill by One Vote

Alabama Lottery Bill 2019

Steve Clouse told the Montgomery Advertiser, “The bill is dead for this session.”

Alabama’s House of Representatives voted down a lottery bill by a single vote late Tuesday night. Opposition came from a mixture of House Republicans and Democrats. State Rep. Steve Clouse said he intends to re-introduce the bill at a later date, when new negotiations over gambling develop.

A clear majority supports Clouse’s bill, but any changes to the Alabama lottery laws faces a high bar. A constitutional amendment is needed to legalize a state lottery in Alabama. That means 63 of Alabama’s 105 state representatives must vote “Yes” on the lottery bill.

It’s hard to say if Clouse is one vote away on the final tally, as lawmakers often vote differently once they know a bill does not have the votes.

Steve Clouse (R-Osark), who chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund, said, “We’ve got to have 63 yes votes and I just don’t know if we got that yet or not.”

Clouse added, “It’s dead for this session. It won’t be coming back this session.”

Not Enough Funds for Education

The House Committee which approved the bill earmarked 75% of lottery revenues to the general fund, while offering 25% of the revenues to the education fund. Several members complained that enough funds did not go towards education.

State Rep. Louise Alexander (D-Bessemer) said, “The money should go toward educating our kids.”

GOP Opposition to Lottery Gaming

A bloc of Republican lawmakers voted against Crouse’s bill because they oppose gambling expansion of any kind. Alabama is one of five US states without lottery gambling and many GOP members want to keep it that way.

State Rep. Rich Wingo (R-Tuscaloosa) is one of the staunch conservatives against lottery gaming in any form. Wingo said, “Just because other states do it, doesn’t make it right.”

“A Very Close Vote”

State Sen. Greg Albritton (R), who sponsored the bill in the Alabama Senate, said, “I was expecting a very close vote. I knew that we were in the deficit some and had hopes that we could make that deficit up. Maybe we can yet.”

The Alabama electorate hasn’t voted on a lottery bill in 20 years. Back in 1999, Alabama voters went against former Gov. Don Siegelman’s lottery proposal. Former Gov. Robert Bentley backed a lottery bill in 2016 as a way out of a state budget crisis.

Bentley’s bill failed for two main reasons. One, Republican lawmakers opposed gambling a form of vice. Two, the two sides could not agree on the electronic gambling.

Dispute over Electronic Gaming Macahines

Many Democrats want amendments to the bill that would legalize electronic gaming machines in commercial racetracks. That measure would help commerce greyhound parks remain open and viable, but the Poarch Band of Creek Indians oppose gaming machines in the commercial racetracks.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians operate three land-based tribal racetracks in Alabama and do not want the competition. The Poarch Band also own Wind Creek Hospitality, a casino company with properties in Mississippi and Pennsylvania.