Alabama lawmakers could vote on lottery next week

Alabama's next best chance at a statewide lottery could hit the state House floor as early as Tuesday, a lawmaker said this week.

State Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, believes he and his fellow representatives will get a chance to debate and vote on the bill next week. The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved the bill Wednesday.

Crawford isn't for the lottery, but favors giving Alabamians a chance to vote on it.

If the lottery referendum bill is passed by the full Legislature, it would represent the first time since 1999 Alabamians would have a chance to vote on it. The referendum measure of 20 years ago was defeated by 54 percent of voters.

Crawford believes the success or failure of the bill would likely depend on where the money is going. He doesn't believe voters would support it unless some of the money is going toward education.

State Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, sponsored the original legislation, but it was substituted for a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, according to published media reports. With Clouse's bill, 25 percent of proceeds would go to the Education Trust Fund, while 75 percent would go to the general fund. The general fund provides revenue to a number of state agencies, including the Department of Corrections, Department of Public Safety, Alabama Department of Transportation and Medicaid.

Clouse has said he expects a close House vote. The bill faces a mixture of opposition from conservative lawmakers opposed to gambling and others who want to allow electronic gambling terminals. The proposal would authorize a state lottery played with paper tickets but with video lottery terminals.

Crawford said the bill would not help the Poarch Creek Indians, which operate three electronic gaming centers in Montgomery, Atmore and Wetumpka. He said some people think the bill would help the Poarch Creek Indians, but it's not true.

“I think (the lottery) would be very similar to what you see in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and now Mississippi,” Crawford said.

Mississippi lawmakers approved a lottery during their legislative session that is set to go into effect in December. Alabama is one of only seven states without a lottery.