BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Over a billion dollars is up for grabs in this week’s lottery. For Alabamians, this news is a reminder that our own state does not allow gambling.
In 2020, Governor Kay Ivey created a committee to study the impacts gambling could have on Alabama. In an 876 page report, the study shows the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
According to the study, over $700 million dollars in revenue and 19,000 jobs could be brought into Alabama if a lottery, casino gaming, and sports betting were legalized statewide.
Todd Strange, the former mayor of Montgomery, chaired the committee that conducted the gambling study. He said he and others on the committee looked into other states’ best practices to recommend what would work best for Alabama.
“We need to have that central authority that could enforce what’s there today,” said Strange. “We saw many forms of it, but what seems to be the best is a gaming commission… appointed by the governor, approved by the senate.”
Some forms of gambling are legal in Alabama, like bingo or casinos run by Native America Tribes. Senator Jim McClendon from Springville said it’s groups that view statewide legalization of gambling as competition is what has stopped the bill from passing previously.
“I guess they see the lottery as competing for the gambling dollar,” said McClendon. “I don’t see that, and I don’t know. But I do know this: my constituents would love to be able to buy a lottery ticket without having to drive to Timbuktu to do it.”
With many Alabamians traveling out of state to buy lotto tickets, Strange said our state is dealing with the downsides to gambling, but none of the upsides.
“I think we have gambling in the state of Alabama today,” said Strange. “We have some of the social costs, but we don’t get any of the revenue.”
For gambling to legalized in Alabama, a bill needs to be passed by both the state Senate and House or Representatives, then the governor must sign the bill. Once the bill is signed, given it is an amendment to the state’s constitution, it requires a vote of the people. Typically amendments would be placed on the next general election ballot, but special elections can also be held.
The last time Alabama voted to legalize statewide gambling was in 1999. Alabama is one of six states that does not have a state lottery system. Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah also do not have state lotteries.