A poll in Alabama in November among 500 state residents showed strong support for legalizing lottery in the state. Conducted by McLaughlin & Associates for the Study Group on Gambling Policy among residents who stated their intent to vote in the 2022 general elections, the poll showed more than 70% of respondents favoring a state lottery.
Lottery Is a Hot Topic
The perennial issue of lottery in Alabama is likely to be put forward for discussion early in the state’s legislative session in 2021, especially after the report submitted by the group estimated Alabama could raise up to $700 million from lottery, casino and sports betting, provided a constitutional amendment for gambling expansion is passed by voters.
The Study Group on Gambling Policy, which was set up by Gov. Kay Ivey in February with the aim to provide information to state residents, despite herself not being a proponent of a lottery, released its report December 18, when the 12-member group’s chair, former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, delivered its findings at a news conference at the Alabama Capitol.
The group tasked by Ivey to gather facts to help the state legislature and voter settle the hot issue concluded advantages from gambling expansion, tax revenue and jobs creation, outweigh disadvantages, problem gambling.
1999 Ban Reaffirmed by Court
Since Alabama voters rejected Gov. Don Siegelman’s lottery proposal in 1999, more than 180 lottery and gambling bills had been put forward by legislators, while courts had issued at least 18 rulings to reaffirm the ban in the state. For the last 5 years alone, several gambling bills have stalled due to competing factions and outright opposition.
Currently, 45 states in the US have lotteries, among which all 4 Alabama neighbors, a prerequisite for many state residents to regularly cross borders to play lotteries, yet the issue of lottery legalization is far from straightforward, requiring approval in both House and Senate by three-fifths of the members of each chamber, before putting the constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to decide.
As for casino gambling expansion, Alabama is facing reluctance from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operate the 3 electronic bingo casinos in the state, in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka, related to local constitutional amendments which facilitated electronic bingo at dog tracks like the ones in Macon and Green counties.
While the Poarch Band is against any attempts to solidify the legal status of operations at dog tracks, dog track operators, on their side, oppose a state lottery, fearing it would give advantage to the tribe by giving them access to machines dog tracks themselves cannot have.