Lottery bill filed in Alabama House, but no date set for vote

Yes, a legislator filed a lottery bill this week. No, a date for a vote has not been set. 

House Ways and Means General Fund chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, dropped his long-expected amendment on Tuesday. It would create a paper-based lottery, with proceeds split between Alabama’s pre-kindergarten program and a scholarship program to provide aid for higher education. A small portion of proceeds would go for compulsive gambling programs. 

But neither Clouse nor House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, are certain when it might come to a vote. The Legislature is on break and will not resume daily sessions until later this month. The upper chamber could be a hurdle. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has said he believes a lottery will not pass unless a broader gambling package accompanies it. 

“When we get back, we’ve still got the budget, we’ve got prison reform issues, and a bunch of bills waiting in line,” Clouse said Friday. “I don’t want to drag the House down on this issue if we don’t get a hearing on it the Senate.”

Alabama is one of a handful of states without a lottery. Attempts to establish a lottery in recent years have fallen victim to the ongoing cold war between the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who run casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka, and dog tracks like VictoryLand in Macon County and GreeneTrack in Greene County. 

Legislators from areas with dog tracks have repeatedly tried to pass local amendments to settle the constitutionality of electronic bingo at their facilities, efforts that have run into opposition from the Poarch Band. The legislators in turn have generally refused to back a lottery without a settlement of the dog track issues. Clouse brought a lottery bill to the floor of the House last year; it failed a procedural motion by a single vote.