Lottery Jackpots Draw Attention to Stalled Alabama Gambling Legislation

The combined Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots of $1.9 billion have people in Alabama crossing state lines in search of winning tickets. That’s because Alabama’s constitution bans lotteries and gambling.

Mega Millions
The jackpots for the Mega Millions and Powerball lottery draws are approaching a combined $1.9 billion. Alabama residents who want to take their shot at the massive prize pools will have to continue to cross state lines if lawmakers in Montgomery fail to pass legislation that would allow lotteries along with other gaming options before the current legislative session ends in May. (Image: San Diego Union-Tribune)

The current legislation to start a lottery, tribal and commercial casinos, and sports betting faces an uncertain future in the Alabama Statehouse. Lawmakers are deeply divided, and when they return to Montgomery on April 2, they’ll have limited time to work out their differences. There are only 30 legislative days in a session, and there are only 12 remaining days of legislative ability to pass bills in this session that ends in May.

As time winds down, the House and Senate remain at odds over how much gambling each chamber is willing to accept.

Alabama State Rep. Sam Jones (D-Mobile) pointed to Senate changes to HB 151/152 that would bring lottery, multiple casinos, and sports betting to the state.

The Senate removed sports betting and casino gambling from its legislation.

“It is very frustrating to see what has happened,” said Rep. Jones, during an interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. “We worked for 13 months to craft a very good bill and it was undermined in less that six days by the Senate. I honestly, at this point, don’t know where things go. I don’t think anyone does.”

As reported by Casino.org., a conference committee is a potential avenue for attempting to bridge the differences between the two bodies. A conference committee is when designated lawmakers from each chamber meet to work out disagreements and find compromises.

What’s in the Gambling Bills

House Bill 151 proposed an amendment to the state constitution, allowing an official state lottery, casino-style games conducted only in person at up to seven locally approved licensed gaming establishments, limited sports wagering, traditional raffles, and traditional paper bingo.

HB 151 passed on February 15. A partner bill, HB 152, was also passed, so if gaming was approved, the governor would establish a state gaming commission and lottery corporation to regulate the legal forms of gaming proposed.

The Senate passed the measures with amendments removing all forms of gaming activity except a lottery, with some limited horse betting allowed at certain casinos.

The Senate also splits funds from the state lottery three ways between the education fund, the Department of Transportation, and the general fund. The changes were sent back to the House, where it awaits lawmakers’ attention on April 2.

Show Me the Money

Supporters of the gaming measures say Alabama loses more than $1.2 billion annually due to the lack of comprehensive gambling laws.

Tennessee and Florida officials have reported lottery sales locations with the highest revenues are along the Alabama border. Georgia officials say proceeds from Alabamians who play that state’s lottery have routinely sent Georgia children to college over the last 20 years. And in Mississippi, it’s the casinos that welcome the money brought across the state line.

In Alabama, any gambling proposal would have to be approved by both three-fifths of lawmakers and a majority of voters.

Alabamians haven’t voted on gambling since a proposed lottery was rejected in 1999.

The post Lottery Jackpots Draw Attention to Stalled Alabama Gambling Legislation appeared first on Casino.org.

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