Lottery in Alabama: Bill would allow voters to determine outcome

Published 4:08 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2019

MONTGOMERY — A bill floating around in the Alabama Senate could result in voters having a say about whether or not they would like to see a lottery in the state.

Two bills were filed by Republican State Sen. Jim McClendon in the Legislature Tuesday — one establishes the lottery and how it will work and the other makes it a constitutional amendment with the public voting on a referendum question during the primary election on March 3, 2020.

The bill is currently in the Tourism Committee in the Senate.

“For too long, the people of Alabama have been forced to drive to Tennessee, Florida and Georgia to buy lottery tickets,” McClendon said in a news conference Tuesday. “Alabama dollars are being spent in neighboring states, funding their schools and their infrastructure projects. It is overwhelmingly clear that the people of Alabama want to vote on a lottery.”

The bill outlining how the process would work says there would be an Alabama Lottery Commission and an Alabama Lottery Corporation created. An executive director position would be created for the corporation and would also serve as its CEO.

According to the bill, the proceeds from the lottery would be split equally between the state’s General Fund and the Education Trust Fund.

State Rep. Debbie Wood in the 38th Legislative District, said living on the state line between Alabama and Georgia, she sees revenue going to Georgia every day due to Alabama residents buying lottery tickets.

She said it should be up to the people if they want lottery in their state or not and it should be accomplished through voting.

If the bill does make it through the Senate and House, and eventually on the ballot in March, Wood said there are benefits to having lottery in the state.

“It is a great opportunity to have additional revenue,” she said. “If we use the fund the right way, it could be a great boost for Alabama.”

She said the funds could help Alabama families by offsetting grocery taxes and education expenses.

“It could really take some of the financial burden off college students and parents,” Wood said.

According to the bill, any winner of a lottery ticket in Alabama will have 365 days to claim a prize. Any unclaimed prize may be retained by the state and added to the pool. Unclaimed prize money not to exceed $200,000 would directed to the Alabama Department of Public Health for the treatment of compulsive gaming disorder and education programs.

The bill also says the winner of any prize of $250,000 and higher may elect to remain anonymous.