In Dire Straits, Alabama Considers Lottery

The state of Alabama has long resisted a lottery but with a budget gap of $700 million, lawmakers are considering a constitutional amendment to allow it. Democratic state Rep. Craig Ford, who has proposed lottery legislation, said it could generate $280 million a year. Governor Robert Bentley (l.) said he'd rather raise taxes.

Today 44 states have lotteries which brought in billion, or 7 in sales to every U.S. adult citizen, in 2013. The six states resisting the pressure are Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Mississippi, Utah and Alabama. But Alabama may be on the verge of allowing a lottery with a 0-0 million budget gap–0 million if borrowed funds are included.

Governor Robert Bentley said, “We knew this day was going to come. We knew this crisis was going to take place, and it’s here.” Bentley does not oppose a lottery but notes it would take years before citizens could approve it and the infrastructure could be set up. Instead he has proposed a $541 million tax increase, mainly paid for by increases in the cigarette and auto sales taxes. “We have to pay for the services we expect. You can’t have a cell phone without paying for it. You can’t drive your car without paying for gas. Everything we own in this state, somebody paid a tax to build it.”

The Republican-controlled legislature would prefer that state agencies cut their budgets from 15 to 30 percent. But Democratic state Rep. Craig Ford has proposed a state lottery that he said could generate $280 million a year. Republican state Rep. Steve Clouse, chair of the General Fund Committee, said, “We’re just looking at anything to raise funds.” Earlier this month, Clouse endorsed a lottery bill that would direct the money for the state’s Medicaid program, which has not taken federal Medicaid expansion money.

An Alabama lottery nearly became a reality in the late 1990s, when then-Governor Donald Siegelman campaigned on this issue. Proceeds would have gone to a scholarships fund. However, Alabama’s constitution bans lotteries, which would require a statewide referendum to change. The vote was held but religious groups mounted a fierce campaign to stop the lottery and the proposal failed with 54 percent of Alabamians voting against it.