Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon says lottery debate will include gambling

HUNTSVILLE,  Ala. -- A  proposed lottery didn't get through the Alabama Legislature in 2019, but 2020 could be in play.

"There will be a lottery bill that will come up again," House Speaker Mac McCutcheon told WHNT News 19 Friday.

McCutcheon says a serious lottery debate will require addressing two major issues.

"One is the need for revenue in the state," he said. "Is the lottery going to be a revenue producer for our state that we can use?"

Then it gets complicated. There are other gambling interests in Alabama, and they have influence with legislators.

"You've got the Poarch Creek Indians' interest in the state," McCutcheon said. "Is there an option there for a compact? And could that produce revenue for the state?"

Right now, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians  operate three gaming facilities in Alabama. A compact with the tribe would allow it to expand in exchange for new tax dollars for the state.

The counties with bingo machines also factor in, with their legislative ideas.

"Like your Greenetrack, Victoryland, Jefferson County issues. You've got those little pockets," McCutcheon said.

So how far does it go?

"When you talk about the lottery, you have to make sure that you're opening up the door to the word 'gambling,'" McCutcheon said. "And if you're going to talk about gambling, you can't say, 'I'm against gambling, but I'm for a lottery.'"

But McCutcheon said both the Alabama House and Senate have shown they can pass a straightforward, "clean lottery bill."

He believes if a lottery bill passes the Legislature and ends up on the ballot, it will be clear what voters are being asked to decide.

"I think the lottery for the vote of the people will be a clean bill," McCutcheon added. "But, can we talk about that separate from the gambling issue?"