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With Mississippi in the lottery game, the pressure is now on Alabama

Aug 31, 2018, 4:11 pm

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A lottery bill is headed to the governor's desk in Mississippi. The bill passed the House and Senate in a special session meeting. Governor Bryant is expected to sign the measure into law. It is estimated the lottery could generate $40 million dollars its first year and $80 million dollars in subsequent years. We are told the lottery might not go into effect until 2019.

When it does begin in Mississippi, that means Alabamians can head, north, south, east or west to buy a lottery ticket. However, they still can't buy one in their own state. In 1999, Alabama voters turned down an education lottery and lawmakers have never allowed for another vote.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Walt Maddox said he favors a lottery. Republican incumbent Governor Kay Ivey says she would have no problem letting the people vote. Of course, before that could happen, a lottery bill would first have to make it out of the state legislature.

Bottom line, it all comes down to where the money from the lottery will go. Lawmakers say until they are able to agree on the funds' destination, the state will remain lottery-free.

"I think people want to see a clear path with where the money will be going," said Senate President Pro-Tem Del Marsh.

Political party aside, money seems to be the holdup for a lottery. For Alabamians to get another shot at voting for a lottery, it has to start in the state house. Marsh says this package needs to be perfect. A lottery bill came close to being approved in 2016, but pro lottery forces could not agree on where the money should go. However, 2019 will be a new year.

"I supported lottery legislation in the past. If somebody wants to bring forth some legislation this next session. I'm not going to oppose it," said Marsh.

Representative Merika Coleman is all in.

"It's actually really sad. With Mississippi passing their lottery yesterday, the state of Alabama is surrounded by states that have lottery, casinos or both," said Coleman.

Now that Alabama is the only state in the Southeast without a lottery, Marsh agrees, the pressure is on.

"I think it definitely puts pressure... these other states receiving revenue. You've got people leaving our state to go buy these tickets," said Marsh.

"I bought a lottery ticket in Tennessee. At the time that Power Ball was $3 billion dollars. People were driving all over to get a ticket. We need to have that here," said Coleman.

Coleman says funds from the lottery could help generate money for public education.

"There are some people that morally disagree with the lottery, they morally disagree with gambling. If that is your stance, I support you and your stance. Don't go buy a lottery ticket. But don't keep us from bringing that revenue in the state. Nobody's asking you to go against you moral issues, but don't deny the students in Alabama to have a free education," said Coleman.

Coleman says it makes no sense for legislators to not move forward with this issue in the next state session. She says, after the governor's race in November, there should be a special session to promote this initiative so that in the 2019, something can be set up for students.

Senator Cam Ward believes a lottery will bring in some revenue, but not as much as many think, especially given the $6 billion dollar education budget. Representative Coleman says while it may not amount to the billion dollar budget, it's still providing millions than what they had.

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