MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday narrowly voted down a proposal to start a lottery and allow up to 10 casinos, ending an effort to get the issue of gambling before voters for the first time since 1999.
The proposal by Republican Sen. Del Marsh fell two votes short of the 21 needed to get the proposed constitutional amendment through the 35-member Alabama Senate. Senators voted 19-13 for the proposal to authorize a state lottery, seven casinos locations as well as a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians for casino games at their three sites.
“I’m not convinced this issue is a dead issue. I think it’s one we’ll have to address sooner or later. I respect each and every one of you and look forward to working with you on whatever the next piece of legislation may be,” Marsh said after his bill’s defeat.
Over the last two decades, gambling legislation in Alabama has failed under a fatal mix of conservative opposition to gambling and a turf war over who could have electronic gambling machines or casino games.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement ahead of the debate, saying the proposal could be, “transformative if done right.”
“While I believe more work needs to be done, moving the bill through the legislative process is a vital next step. My commitment remains the same: to let the people of Alabama have the final say on a good bill that, once and for all, addresses a long-standing challenge that has faced our state,” Ivey said in a statement.
To win approval, the proposal would have to be approved by both three-fifths of lawmakers and a majority of statewide voters in a public vote.
Alabama voters in 1999 voted down then-Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposed state lottery.
Marsh said polling shows that Alabamians want to vote on the idea again.
The bill proposed establishing a state lottery and five casinos — one at four existing dog tracks plus a fifth site in north Alabama that would be run by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. It also authorized a compact with the Poarch Band for casino games at their three existing sites that currently have electronic bingo machines.
Lawmakers added two additional sites to the bill after sites in Lowndes and Houston counties asked to be included.
The Legislative Services Agency estimated the lottery would generate $194-$279 million annually for college scholarships awarded on a mix of need, merit and workforce needs in the state. The agency estimated the casinos would generate $260-$393 million annually from the 20% tax on gaming revenues as authorized by this amendment.
Marsh proposed to use lottery revenue for college scholarships and other education need. Casino revenue would be used to help expand broadband access in the state as well as to fund rural health services.