Alabama Lottery Bill Progresses, But Clock Ticking on Legislative Session
Posted on: March 18, 2022, 11:35h.
Last updated on: March 18, 2022, 12:35h.
Legislation to establish a state-run lottery in Alabama found favor in a House committee this week. The bill now moves to the full chamber floor for consideration.
The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee yesterday approved House Bill 501. The bipartisan legislation, which was introduced by state Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger’s Island), seeks to establish a lottery in Alabama and use its proceeds to support public education.
The people of Alabama have been playing the lottery for years. We’ve just been playing it in other states. It’s time we kept that money in-state and helped out the children of the state of Alabama,” Brown said following the committee’s passing of the statute.
Lottery revenue would be used primarily to provide small scholarships for students seeking higher education. Grants for students embarking on two-year programs would be capped at $2,500 per recipient. Scholarships for four-year universities would be determined based on the lottery income and number of eligible applicants.
Gaming Efforts Stalled
Alabama is one of only five US states without a lottery. It also has no commercial casinos, and its tribal casinos only offer Class II bingo-based gaming — not traditional slot machines and table games.
The deeply conservative state has maintained staunch opposition to gaming legislative efforts for years. And lawmakers have largely held true to the anti-gaming mandate in 2022. However, there were glimpses of optimism for pro-gaming lawmakers.
Earlier this month, the Alabama Senate Tourism Committee approved bills to legalize a lottery, sports betting, and as many as five casinos. But the measures have since stalled after moving to the full senate.
As a result, Brown introduced a lottery-only bill. But time is now of utmost importance, as the Alabama legislature has only seven remaining scheduled session days before its April adjournment.
Republican House Speaker Mac McCutcheon tells the Associated Press that he will only dedicate time to Brown’s lottery bill should he field adequate support to consider the measure. “We’ve got to see where the votes are,” McCutcheon said.
The Alabama Legislature will return later this month following its planned one-week spring break.
Brown’s Alabama lottery bill would create a state-run lottery with instant and draw games, and allow Alabamans to participate in popular multi-state lotteries, such as Powerball and Mega Millions. The financial benefits, Brown says, would be substantial for higher education seekers.
The Alabama State Treasury’s office projects that a lottery would generate $198 million to $285 million annually in revenue after paying out prices and covering operating expenses.
Along with scholarships for post-secondary students, the lottery money could be used to provide bonuses to retiring teachers and help fund public and private agricultural education programs. A small portion of the proceeds would be set aside to address problem gambling.
Brown’s bill does not specify how scholarship applications would be reviewed and approved.
Neighboring Georgia uses its lottery in a similar manner. Since the Georgia Lottery began in 1992, the lottery has raised nearly $25 billion for education.