Alabama Democratic Gubernatorial Challenger Embraces State Lottery

Posted on: September 12, 2018, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: September 12, 2018, 01:24h.

The odds are stacked against Alabama Democrat Walt Maddox in upsetting incumbent Governor Kay Ivey (R), but he believes he has a fighting chance by running on one key issue: authorizing a state lottery.

Alabama lottery governor race
Democrat Walt Maddox and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey differ on the merits of a state lottery. (Image: Tiffeny Owens/Cullman Times/Governor Ivey/

With Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) recently signing a state bill to legalize a lottery, Alabama is now fully surrounded by states that offer such gambling. Maddox says it’s time to stop Alabamians from traveling across state borders to play simple games of chance.

The 45-year-old Democrat, who is currently the mayor of Tuscaloosa, says lottery losses incurred by Alabamians in neighboring states are being used for education and other programs.

I believe it’s senseless we continue to educate children in Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia, without reaping the benefit in Alabama,” Maddox said during a campaign speech this week.

Maddox proposes authorizing a state lottery, and earmarking tax revenues for college scholarships, state schools that are struggling, and to expand the state’s Medicaid program. The latter he said would be the “greatest economic development proposal” in the history of Alabama.

The latest poll conducted in late July has Ivey at 56 percent support to Maddox at 42 percent. The survey’s margin of error was listed at +/- 3.1 percent.

Hail Mary Chance

The heart of the Bible Belt is no longer immune to gambling. Lotteries are found in every state other than Alabama, and tribal and/or commercial casinos have become more widespread. In Arkansas, voters in November will be asked whether they want to legalize four land-based casinos to add yet additional gambling venues to the religious south.

In Alabama, however, Maddox’s lottery plans to boost education and Medicaid would face steep opposition. To authorize such gambling, the Alabama Legislature would need to propose a state constitutional amendment, and the odds of that seem long considering GOP politicians control 96 of the 140 House and Senate seats.

Maddox says lawmakers need to take down their hard barriers against a lottery, as the health of senior citizens is in jeopardy. “If we do not expand Medicaid, rural hospitals in Alabama will continue to close,” Maddox opined.

On his website, Maddox says Alabama ranks 47th in the nation in healthcare. “If you live in rural Alabama, then your life expectancy is six months less than your fellow Alabamians and three years less than the rest of the nation,” the candidate writes.

Ivey Differs From Predecessor

Maddox isn’t the only Alabamian who’s backed a state lottery. Former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), who resigned in April 2017 following a sex scandal with a political aide, had called on the legislature to propose a ballot question to authorize a state lottery.

It’s time we stop supporting other states’ budgets,” the then-governor said in August 2016.

Earlier this year, a lottery bill authored by Alabama State Senator Paul Sandford (R-Huntsville) would have allowed the state to join into multi-state lotteries like Powerball and Mega Millions, but not scratch-off games. The bill cleared a Senate committee, but never received a floor vote in the chamber.

Ivey says Maddox’s lottery talk is simply to distract voters away from the good works her administration is doing. “Governor Ivey has chosen to focus on governing and creating a brighter future for Alabamians,” a spokesman told the Associated Press.