MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — With the future of gaming and a potential lottery in Alabama still up in the air, Gov. Kay Ivey has now formed a group to further study both issues.

In a press release sent out by her office Friday, Ivey announced that she had signed Executive Order 719, forming the Study Group for Gambling Policy. The group, made up of 12 people, will periodically meet to discuss the issues and gather information on them that will then be presented to both her and the Alabama Legislature.

“I am committed to, once and for all, getting the facts so that the people of Alabama can make an informed decision on what has been a hotly debated topic for many years,” Ivey said in a written statement. “Without a doubt, there will be ramifications if we eventually expand gaming options in our state just as there are costs associated with doing nothing.

“Every so often, this issue resurfaces through a new form of legislation. By my estimation, we’ve had more than 180 bills regarding a lottery or expanded gaming since the late 1990s.

“I’m extremely grateful that some of our most distinguished citizens – from a diverse background including all regions of our state – have agreed to help gather this information. The specific data they gather will hopefully lead us all to making a better, more informed decision.

“Ultimately, I believe the final say belongs to the people of Alabama. As their governor, I want them to be fully informed of all the facts so that, together, we can make the best decision possible.”

The group will submit its final report no later than Dec. 31.

Ivey first announced her plan to form the group during her annual State of the State address Feb. 4. However, some Alabama legislators say that is not enough.

“All we do in this state is study, study, study,” said Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham. “We never do anything.”

Prior to the start of the session, Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, announced his intention to introduce a bill that would create a lottery to support education in the state. He has said he will continue with his proposed bill.

There is also discussion about entering a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians with expanded gaming that would essentially give them the monopoly on gaming in the state.

The group is made up of the following people:

  • Todd Strange (Chair), former mayor of Montgomery and former director of the Alabama Development Office (the Alabama Department of Commerce)
  • A.R. “Rey” Almodóvar, co-founder and chief executive officer of INTUITIVE.
  • Dr. Deborah Barnhart, chief executive officer emerita of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.
  • Walter Bell, former chairman of Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers and former Alabama Commissioner of Insurance.
  • Dr. Regina Benjamin, 18th Surgeon General of the United States and former president of the Alabama Medical Association.  
  • Young Boozer of Montgomery, assistant superintendent of Banking at the Alabama State Banking Department and former Treasurer for the state of Alabama.
  • Sam Cochran, sheriff of Mobile County.
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley, litigation attorney at Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC.
  • Carl Jamison, shareholder in JamisonMoneyFarmerPC, one of the largest and oldest public accounting firms in the state of Alabama.
  • Justice James “Jim” Main, former justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama and former judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
  • Phil Rawls, former reporter for The Associated Press and current lecturer of journalism at Auburn University.
  • Bishop B. Mike Watson, bishop in residence at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham and current Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops.