Lottery bill stalls in Alabama House, fails procedural vote
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Lottery legislation is facing an uncertain fate in a divided House of Representatives after running into opposition on Tuesday night from a mix of Republicans and Democrats.
Supporters were one vote short of the number required to bring the bill up for debate Tuesday night. Rep. Steve Clouse, who is handling the legislation in the House, said he will try again at a later time as negotiations continue on the bill.
However, Clouse said it remains unclear if supporters can ultimately muster the 63 votes needed to pass the proposed constitutional amendment out of the 105-member House.
“We’ve got to have 63 yes votes and I just don’t know if we got that yet or not,” Clouse, a Republican from Ozark, said.
The proposed constitutional amendment would authorize a lottery played with paper tickets, including instant tickets and multi-state lottery games. If approved by lawmakers, the measure would go before state voters next year.
The lottery legislation faces opposition from some Republicans opposed to legalizing gambling. It also faces opposition from Democrats who want to steer more money to education or to ensure state dog tracks can have electronic gambling to remain competitive with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
“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,” said Republican Sen. Greg Albritton, the bill’s sponsor.
The proposal approved by a House committee would steer 75% of lottery proceeds to the general fund and 25% to the education budget.
“The money should go toward educating our kids,” said Rep. Louise Alexander, D-Bessemer.
Republican Rep. Rich Wingo of Tuscaloosa said he is opposed the bill because he believes gambling is a poor way to fund government.
“Just because other states do it, doesn’t make it right,” Wingo said.
Alabama is one of five states without a state lottery.
Alabama voters last went to the polls on the idea of a lottery in 1999, when they rejected a lottery proposed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman.
Then-Gov. Robert Bentley in 2016 called for a state lottery in response to a state budget crisis, but the measure failed under a politically fatal mix of conservative opposition to gambling and feuds over electronic gambling.
Clouse likened negotiations on the lottery bill to trying to solve a tricky puzzle where “you put one piece in and the other piece falls apart.”
He said it’s also frustrating to state voters. Clouse, who lives in the southeastern corner of the state, said he sees constituents regularly driving to neighboring Florida and Georgia to buy lottery tickets.
Said Clouse: “I hear from them all the time ... ‘Why can’t we buy them here in Alabama?’”