MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — This St. Patrick’s Day, state lawmakers are hoping to give Alabama residents a chance at their own pot of gold by creating a state lottery.
An Alabama House committee gave a bill creating a lottery a favorable report after multiple legislators said the move is long overdue.
“We’ve been talking about this ever since 1999. It’s time for the citizens of this state to decide if they want a lottery,” said Rep. Berry Forte, D-Eufala.
Bill sponsor Chip Brown, R-Mobile, said surrounding states shouldn’t be the ones to benefit from Alabamians who want to play a number.
“The people of Alabama have been playing the lottery for years. We’ve just been playing it in other states,” Brown said.
Revenue proceeds from the lottery would go in part to higher education scholarships, programs to get young people into agriculture and bonuses for retired teachers. The bill would not have any impact on existing gambling activities in the state.
“My goal is to simply bring a straight education lottery bill to the people of Alabama and that’s it,” Brown said.
However, the Alabama Citizens Action Program opposes the lottery, saying it preys on poor people more likely to buy tickets.
“The poor see it as a ticket out of poverty. They think if I can get a lottery ticket and win then it’ll pull me out of poverty. The fact is most of those tickets end up in the trash can,” said Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program.
Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, suggested an amendment to make the scholarships from the proceeds need-based in order to benefit lower-income students.
The committee ended up unanimously passing the bill.
With Thursday being the 23rd day of the 30-day session and spring break coming up next week, lawmakers will have to move quickly to get these bills through.