Ala. lottery discussion part of 'three-legged stool,’ Speaker says

Ala. lottery discussion part of ‘three-legged stool,’ Speaker says

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Lottery proposals are anticipated for the 2020 legislative session, but some lawmakers said other gaming issues need to be resolved first.

Year after year lottery proposals fail in the Alabama Statehouse, and many times it is for the same reasons. State Republican leadership said they want to address multifaceted gaming issues before attempting to pass another lottery.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, said there’s a slim chance a lottery could pass during the 2020 session because of the multitude of gaming factors. He calls the gaming discussion a “three-legged stool."

McCutcheon said three gaming issues need to be dealt with simultaneously:

  1. The lottery: Is it an education lottery? How will the money be spent?
  2. Poarch Band of Creek Indians: The tribe operates gaming in the state. They proposed a plan to provide revenue for the state in return for gaming exclusivity.
  3. Local issues: Questions about local bingo for charity and bingo machines arise during lottery debates.

“Every time we have a lottery, these other issues always come up and they are part of the discussion,” McCutcheon said. “I think we should start off with looking at all three legs of the stool and not just single out a lottery and make that one single issue."

President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said a lottery has not passed because there is uncertainty surrounding gaming.

“What I’m not willing to do is push another lottery through the Senate, which I did and it passed, just to see it die in the House,” Marsh said.

Marsh wants to see these other gaming issues resolved, which have stonewalled the passage of a lottery. He wants to see stakeholders come together to discuss the issues they have with gaming.

“Let’s see if we can put together an agreement to try and get something passed so the People can vote on it,” Marsh said. “Most citizens believe that they should have the ability to vote on a lottery."

McCutcheon supports a lottery. He noted that an education lottery is popular among legislators, but said additional revenues are needed for the General Fund.

“If we moved in that direction, we still have issues in the General Fund that need to be funded,” McCutcheon said.

For instance, the speaker said Corrections and rural health care issues all have a price tag. He thinks discussions need to be had about ways to fund the General Fund through gaming, for instance, through a compact. McCutcheon said there were no discussions to raise property taxes.

If there were to be a compact between the state and the tribe, McCutcheon said it would take time for the federal government to approve it. The speaker added the state legislature may not pass a lottery in the 2020 session because of the process for the federal government to approve a compact.

The governor and the legislature would both need to be involved in the compact. Gov. Kay Ivey said in a one-on-one interview Thursday that she wanted to review the facts but was open to “good ideas.”

The legislative session begins Feb. 4.

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