Lottery, fantasy sports bills pass Senate committee, but...

Lottery, fantasy sports bills pass Senate committee, but...
(Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Both a state lottery bill, along with legislation to legalize fantasy sports like Draft Kings in Alabama, passed out of a Senate committee Wednesday.

The lottery bill would allow the state to participate in statewide games like Mega Millions and Powerball. Bill sponsor, Senator Paul Sanford, R-Madison County, estimates the lottery would add $50 million to state coffers.

The bill does not provide an ability for the state to produce its own scratch-off lottery tickets.

Sanford's fantasy sports bill also received favorable support from the committee. He said many of those reaching out to him want the game for the comradery of competing with others, not the cash prize. Sanford said these are games of skills and not random chance, so they don't qualify as gaming.

"It's not about winning the big jackpot," Sanford said, "but it's about the comradery and community it creates."

Both bills faced opposition. Neither is expected to pass this year.

"I think the chance of both of them are slim to none, to be honest," Sanford admitted. "I'm a realist."

The senator, who is not running for re-election, wanted to carry the legislation again before his time in office is up.

The Alabama Citizens Action Program, or ALCAP, opposes gaming legislation and believes the bills would greatly expand gaming in Alabama and hurt the state's bottom line.

"Buying lottery tickets or playing at a casino, they are not buying goods and services," said, Joe Godfrey, spokesperson for ALCAP.

Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who has proposed his own lottery bills in the past, did not support Sanford's proposal.

Most lawmakers have no desire to tackle controversial legislation like the lottery during an election year while there is not a strong need for new revenue.

The good budget situation is part of the reason why Sanford wants to discuss a lottery now.

"Why not look at this when you're not under emotional duress and you are not under financial duress and you can make a decision on is this really what you want or do we just need to have more money?" Sanford asked.

Lawmakers have traditionally turned to a lottery when they have been faced with major budget issues. Most recently, Gov. Robert Bentley called a special session to pass a lottery in 2016. The proposal failed.

Both bills could be on the Senate floor as early as next week but there is no indication if that will ever happen.

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