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20 years later: Will a lottery vote come before the people of Alabama again?

Oct 11, 2019, 9:58 pm

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Alabama

Saturday will mark 20 years since the people of Alabama voted against allowing a lottery.

"This is something that citizens have asked us for by their actions," said Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D- Birmingham). "They're telling us if we can't get it here, we'll go someplace else to get it."

Coleman-Madison is among many legislators who say it's time to let the people vote again. The details of that lottery proposal haven't been as easy for legislators to agree on.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R- Anniston) told ABC 33/40 he gives the lottery a 50/50 chance in the upcoming legislative session.

Charles Ash recalls voting for the lottery on October 12, 1999.

"I was voting for the governor of the time and he was supportive and I thought it was a good idea," explained Ash.

Twenty years later, Ash wants the chance to vote again.

"If it were to fund something like it does in Georgia, where schools benefit from it, I think it's a good thing," said Ash.

Jason Robbins says he doesn't see any good coming from a lottery.

"It's their right," he said. "I think they should vote on it. But, I'm against it."

"For some reason, the legislature is dragging its feet in putting this before the people as a referendum," said Coleman-Madison. "I think it's time. I really think it's past time."

Coleman-Madison explains the division in Montgomery has been about more than a common lottery.

Many lottery bills have included different types of gambling.

"You have this conflict between the Poarch Creek Indians, and them trying to hold on and gain more," she said.

"Other gaming issues get brought into it," said Marsh. "There's always concern from those who represent Green Track and Victory Land. The lottery doesn't resolve their issues so they'd rather do it all at one time."

Some lawmakers disagree about where gambling should be expanded and who should control it. There's also debate about what the revenue generated should be used for.

Coleman-Madison says both parties will have to work together if anything will get passed.

"I think the chances are better because we have not come up with any new revenues on how we're going to fund prison reform and we don't have a choice about that. When the Department of Justice came down, they told Alabama in no uncertain term, we're not playing with you all. We've tried to be patient. We don't want them to come in and take over. But they will. The lawsuits are real."

There are also some conservative lawmakers fundamentally opposed to any type of gambling and do not want to see any lottery put before the people for a vote. Concerns include the impact on poor people unable to afford tickets.

The 2020 session begins in February.

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