canada africa partner reservation Why the ‘bloody battle’ between lotteries and gambling is dead in 2024 – and maybe in 2025

Why the ‘bloody battle’ between lotteries and gambling is dead in 2024 – and maybe in 2025


Gambling and lottery bills in Alabama are like the antagonist of a horror movie: just when the monster seems dead, they return to find more victims throughout the sequels.

But after this year’s gambling and lottery monster seemingly died this spring, some government officials seem to have no problem putting the beast away for the rest of this year. And some would prefer to keep the monster under control in 2025 as well.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said Thursday she is not interested in calling a special session to revive the issue, and lawmakers are taking her word for it.

“This has been a bloody battle all session,” said Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, who was the Senate sponsor of the version that emerged from a legislative conference committee. This was passed by the Alabama House, but defeated by a single vote in the Senate on April 30.

Albritton was one of fifteen “no” votes on HB131, which would have introduced a constitutional amendment to legalize a state lottery and allowed seven casinos, but would have banned sports betting and no new casino for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would have recorded.

A second bill – HB132 – represented authorizing legislation that distributed casino gambling proceeds to a host of sources, including rural health care, mental health care, retiree bonuses, drug courts, road repairs and more. The proceeds from the lottery were almost entirely intended for education.

“It affected us from the first day to the last (day of the session),” Albritton said. “There are damaged relationships across the board.”

Towards 2025

Alabama House Speaker Nathanial Ledbetter, R-Rainville, speaks during a luncheon hosted by the Mobile Chamber on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel in downtown Mobile, Ala.

Albritton said he was not eager to address the issue in 2025. The last major attempt to legalize gambling and lotteries before this spring was in 2021. The efforts have come and gone over the years since voters last had a chance to decide. about legalizing a state lottery in 1999.

“I don’t know if I’ll do it (address the issue),” Albritton said. “I need more support than I have now. For me, I still need to know that (the support) is there.

Alabama Republican Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said he had “no plans” to revisit the issue, though he remains concerned about the lack of legislative activity that would allow widespread illegal forms of gambling continues statewide.

Ledbetter told reporters Thursday that two people had approached him about local constitutional changes to allow gambling in their provinces. Alabama already has seventeen local constitutional amendments that allow for a form of electronic bingo. These amendments would have been repealed under the comprehensive gambling package that failed to pass the Senate on April 30.

“We were trying to solve a problem,” Ledbetter said. “I think (illegal gambling) is a problem. I don’t know how long we can keep our heads in the sand. It’s a fact of life.”

Alabama State Senator Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, May 2, 2024, at the State House in Montgomery, Ala.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said he expects the issue to be revisited in 2025.

“Do I expect to see any further legislation from members of the Alabama Senate or House regarding the subject of gaming? I do,” he said.

Special session

Senator Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, is even more optimistic. He believes that if Ivey calls a special session this summer, the existing package that died in a single vote would be passed.

“I think we can put together a package that can get people on board,” Singleton said. ‘And let that one voice come. Really and truly.”

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey speaks during a rally on school choice on January 22, 2024 at the State Capitol.

Ivey, who told reporters Thursday that she was “disappointed” in the Legislature over the issue, said she was not interested in the cost and time of calling a special session on gambling and lotteries.

“Why would I do that?” Ivey said.

The costs associated with a special session, which only Ivey can call, can be expensive. According to the Legislative Services Agency, the special session held last July was certified at $146,750. That session, which dealt with redistricting, lasted only five days. A special session can last up to 12 days.

Alabama State Senator Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, speaks on the floor of the Alabama State Senate at the State House in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday, May 2, 2024.

“I agree with the governor on this,” said Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, who was among the “No” votes on the conference committee package but who voted for a scaled-back plan that the Senate drafted. in early March, that included a lottery, but no sports betting, and three casinos operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI). The House version, first passed in February, included a lottery, 10 casinos — four of them operated by PCI — and legal sports betting.

Elliott said he voted against the final version in the Senate out of concern about widespread electronic casino gambling in Alabama — the conference committee version included seven new casinos but no sports betting — and legislative language he said focused on expanding Medicaid, public transportation, and hosting what he called other “gimmicks.”

“There is no point in calling a special session if there are no votes to pass what you want to pass,” Elliott said. “We have just come from a session where the votes were not there to approve the proposal. It would be a huge waste of time, energy and taxpayer money.”

Political consequences

If gambling is not revived in 2025, it could face a difficult road in 2026 ahead of the next round of elections for state officials.

But over the years, voters have largely failed to hold lawmakers accountable for their failure to pass a legislative package in Alabama that would allow them to vote in a lottery. Alabama remains one of five states without a lottery, and advocates claim the state is losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually due to the lack of one.

According to polls in recent years, support for the lottery in Alabama is high. A poll conducted in November by KAConsulting LLC, led by former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, showed as much as 80% support for lotteries in Alabama. The poll consisted of 60% of people identifying as Republican.

Alabama State Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Smiths Station, speaks at the Alabama House of Representatives at the State House in Montgomery, Ala., on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.

“If the election were to happen now, it could happen there,” said Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Smiths Station, who was the sponsor of the conference committee gambling package that passed the House of Representatives but died in the Senate . “When you see polls in the 70s to 80s (supporting the lottery), it means they want to vote. But it all depends on what happens between now and the next two years. It’s hard to predict.”

Campaign ads, especially during the 2022 Republican primaries, tended to focus more on culture war and nationalized political issues such as gun rights, LGBTQ policies, immigration and abortion.

“I don’t know if (the failure to pass a lottery and gambling package) was effectively tested in the marketplace on Election Day,” said Jess Brown, a longtime political observer of Alabama state politics and a retired political science professor. at Athens State University. “If the Legislature doesn’t act, I think it will be thoroughly tested in 2026. Even in a Republican primary, if someone steps forward in 2026 and says it’s financial malpractice not to have a lottery-only bill or a lottery proposal, I’m not talking about a comprehensive gambling package, but I think Republicans absolutely find it absurd.”

Lottery proceeds

A man brings in five winning scratch-off tickets at Keith’s Superstore in Gautier.

A gambling policy study group’s report, released in December 2020, estimated that Alabama would earn up to $300 million a year from a lottery. The conference committee proposal, which was rejected in the Senate, would have diverted most of those funds to education.

Neighboring states, where Alabamians must travel to purchase lottery tickets, are also experiencing a financial boon from their lotteries. The Georgia Lottery raises more than $1.5 billion annually for its HOPE education grants and pre-K programs. Tennessee has raised more than $6.2 billion for education-related purposes since the lottery was adopted in 2004. Mississippi, which has had a lottery for four years, has raised more than $488 million for a variety of purposes, especially transportation.

Brown estimates that the state has lost at least more than $1.5 billion since voters rejected Siegelman’s 1999 lottery referendum by a vote of 54% to 46%.

Alabama Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, speaks on the Senate floor at the State House in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday, May 2, 2024.

Singleton said it may not be politics that forces the issue in 2026, but a lack of revenue from federal sources.

“I think after 2026, when all this federal (COVID) money runs out, when we start running shortfalls in our budgets, this will show,” he said. “And then we’ll wish we had done this. And we’ll have that sense of urgency, and I think we’ll let it pass.

Reed said no matter what happens, the monster will linger in the halls of the State House for the foreseeable future — whether a new piece of gambling and lottery legislation is introduced or not.

“I’ve been a member of the Legislature for 14 years, and it’s been with us every year,” he said. “Is it an important topic? Yes.”

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