After moving through a House Committee, a constitutional amendment and two enabling bills were supposed to be voted in the full Alabama House of Representatives this week. However, SB 319, SB 309, and SB 311 have stalled. The House failed to take up the legislation due to a lack of support and accusations between the Republicans and the Democrats.
The legislation would have legalized and regulated lottery gaming in the state, along with additional casino options plus sports betting. The day was long as legislators tried to get the bill moving forward, only to see it stall in the late-night hours.
Back and Forth Between Legislators
An attempt to move the bill forward fell to pieces on Thursday as House members were divided on how the bill should read. The initial plan was to hold a vote on an amendment that would let voters decide on establishing a lottery, along with casino gambling and sports betting. However, the effort was quickly derailed. Negotiations throughout the day soon became troublesome.
The votes of Democrat House members are essential to the passage of the bill, and the group wanted concessions. They want to see language added to the measure so that funds would be used to expand on Medicaid. They also want guarantees that Black individuals will be able to have a stake in the proposed casino developments.
Democrats began to accuse Republicans of hosting meetings and locking them out, and introducing a varying lottery bill to try and push their agenda.
Republicans responded that they only worked in good faith and wanted to provide an option that voters would approve. Democrats reported they were locked out of the majority of discussions taking place on Thursday. They were then given several versions of gambling proposals throughout the day.
The House carried on until 11 pm when Republicans introduced the substitute lottery bill. Cutting down the measure to a simple lottery proposal, the substitute irked several Democrats and some Republicans. Because of the back and forth and no clear consensus within the House, the vote on the measure is delayed.
There is still time for the option to move forward, as the final day of the Legislature’s current session is May 17. However, if lawmakers cannot get on the same page about what the gambling bill should look like, it does not seem likely that anything will move on to the citizens for a vote via ballot referendum.
Governor Ivey Urging Passage
Governor Kay Ivey has shown her support for the gambling amendment and enabling bills. She spoke out a few days ago, urging lawmakers to approve the option. In a statement, Governor Ivey said that the process has been long and complex, and she has stayed engaged the entire time. She sees the subject as too important to not get right.
I am pleased that after many discussions with the Legislature, I believe we have found a path forward to once and for all address gambling in Alabama.”
She feels that the plan under consideration right now is the best option to give the voters of Alabama the final say. Governor Ivey stated further that the proposal in its current form would limit gambling to specific destinations and clean up the illegal operations that are taking place today.
A Look at the Bills
SB 319 is the main bill, providing a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voters to decide on the gambling changes in 2022. SB 309 sets up the framework for the Alabama Education Lottery, while SB 311 will create the Alabama Gambling Regulatory Commission. This measure also provides information on the restrictions regarding campaign contributions from gambling entities and ethics requirements.
All three of the bills have passed within the Senate. However, if the House chooses to make changes, the Senate would have to review the bills once again. The lottery is a significant factor under consideration, and it would bring major revenues to the state. It has been estimated that as much as $200 to $300 million would be generated annually.
The net revenues from the lottery would help support scholarship programs for two- and four-year colleges, as the language of the bill stands now. In addition, programming would be set up to see graduates stay and work in Alabama. The state is in desperate need of educational assistance. Currently, Alabama ranks 46th in the US overall in education.
According to a recent ranking by WalletHub, Alabama falls to the bottom when it comes to the percentage of high school graduates, degree holders, and university quality. With the help of the lottery, more high schoolers would have the funds needed to go to school and have a better shot at a brighter future.