BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For former Governors Don Siegelman and Robert Bentley, the lottery is a familiar topic. Both leaders fought for their own versions of a state lottery during their terms leading the State of Alabama.
“I wanted to give children the hope and dream of a better future by providing them with the best education possible,” Siegelman told CBS 42. His lottery proposal was voted down by the people of Alabama in 1999.
“I think the lottery would have passed if the Indian casinos next door in Mississippi had minded their own business and if there hadn’t been this concerted effort both to defeat me and defeat the lottery,” he added.
Siegelman says those Mississippi casinos, and the lobbyists who worked for them used pastors across Alabama to convince churchgoers that the lottery was against their religious beliefs and moral standards.
“I can forgive them for what they did to me but I can’t forgive them for what they did to the children of Alabama by cheating them out of their future,” he said.
17 years later, Governor Robert Bentley proposed a statewide lottery. His stated goal was to fund Medicaid in Alabama. Bentley called a Special Session of the Alabama legislature, but the measure was eventually defeated and never voted on by the public.
“When Governor Siegelman pushed it, I was totally against it,” Bentley said. “I fought against it even though I was not in public office, I voted against it.”
Bentley’s lottery proposal came near the end of his time in office. It failed months before Bentley resigned from office after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors related to campaign finance.
Bentley says he was not a steadfast supporter of the lottery and was not completely sure it was the best option to raise state revenue. Yet, he felt the proposal was an effective way of funding Medicaid without raising taxes.
“It just shows that the legislature is fickle,” he added.
Both agree that the choice to have a state lottery should always be left to the people to decide.
“You listen to the people because that’s who you represent,” Bentley said.