The Alabama House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism voted Thursday to advance legislation to create a state lottery.
House Bill (HB73) is sponsored by State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollingers Island).
Brown spoke with Capitol Journal’s Todd Stacy on Thursday.
“It is a bottom-up bill,” Brown said. “We have a lot of members who want to vote on a clean lottery bill...Alabama has been playing the lottery, we have just have been playing it in other states since the 1980s.”
State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) has introduced comprehensive gambling legislation that would create a lottery but it also creates casinos at the dog tracks, sports betting, and forces the Governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI). That bill, Senate Bill 293 (SB293) has been widely criticized for “picking winners and losers” by dictating where casinos can be located – the existing four dog tracks as well as limited “satellite casinos” in Houston and Lowndes Counties. It also authorizes the construction of a new casino in Dekalb or Jackson Counties. Many legislators say that they support a lottery but not the massive expansion of casino gambling in the state.
Sources have told 1819 News that the Albritton gambling bill is not going to move this year so close to an election.
Brown says that members have told him they want, “A bill that only has a lottery in it, no outside gaming in it." Brown acknowledged that his bill would face some opposition from members who want casino gambling.
“When you introduce a bill that addresses one class without the other classes, it is always a concern,” Brown said. “Remember we came within one vote in 2019 of passing a lottery bill in the House that Steve Clouse had.”
In the committee hearing, opponents expressed concern that the lottery could come with great social costs for the people of Alabama.
“There is a provision in this bill, for $500,000 annually for problem gamblers, but I trust the people of Alabama,” Brown said in response to those concerns. “This is the number one issue I hear in my district.”
Critics of the lottery argue that lotteries prey on the poor and the addicted. They argue that lotteries sell an unlikely dream to people who are most desperate. The better educated, the more affluent, stay away from lotteries, which are a fixed game where over 99% of players lose money.
“The majority of people who play the lottery are receiving government subsidies, so those of us who don’t play, are paying for those who do play by using our tax dollars,” Joe Godfrey, the executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said.
A study of lottery players in Connecticut showed that people who play the lottery tend to be less affluent and that lotteries prey heavily on minorities.
HB73 could be considered by the Alabama House of Representatives as soon as Tuesday, March 29. The Alabama legislature is currently enjoying its spring break. There are a maximum of seven legislative days left in the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.