Will Alabama lottery bill to fund pre-K, college scholarships pass this year?

Published 5:27 pm Monday, January 27, 2020

Alabama lawmakers could once again debate the idea of starting a state lottery.

Republican. Rep. Steve Clouse of Ozark says he will introduce a lottery bill in the legislative session that begins Feb. 4. Clouse is proposing to use the proceeds to fund the state’s prekindergarten program and also provide college scholarships.

The measure would have to be approved both by lawmakers and voters.

Alabama is one of five states, and the only one in the Deep South, without a state lottery. Mississippi started a lottery last year.

“We basically are surrounded now,” Clouse said of lottery states.

The Legislative Service Agency, which projects how much revenue bills will generate, last year estimated a paper lottery would produce $166.7 million annually. Clouse said he believes the revenue could be higher.

A lottery has become a perennial issue at the Statehouse, but past bills were doomed because of a mixture of opposition to gambling and a turf war over electronic gambling machines.

Sen. Greg Albritton, who sponsored a lottery bill last year, said the multitude of competing factions “make it easier to kill something than to pass something.”

The lottery debate comes at the same time the Poarch Band of Creek Indians have launched a “Winning for Alabama” public relations campaign for their effort to secure a state compact. Legislators whose districts include dog racing tracks have argued the tribe should not have a monopoly on gambling.

The last time a lottery bill came out of the Legislature was 1999 after then-Gov. Don Siegelman campaigned on the idea of creating a Georgia-style lottery to fund education programs. Alabamians voted down the measure, and no proposal has been put before voters since.

The Alabama Senate narrowly approved a lottery bill last year, but the measure stalled in the House of Representatives.

Albritton said many lawmakers believe any lottery bill should start in the 105-member House this year to try to clear that hurdle first.

“That’s where the last two we’ve sent have died,” the Atmore Republican said.