Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) says the state shouldn’t rush into authorizing casinos and a lottery. She added that until the facts and financial benefits are known, gaming bills shouldn’t be sent to her desk.
Alabama is one of only a handful of states without a lottery. It also doesn’t have commercial casinos, and its three Native American casinos are only Class I and II gaming facilities, meaning slot machines and table games aren’t permitted.
The state’s lone federally recognized tribe – the Poarch Band of Creek Indians – has pitched Alabama a $1 billion proposal to obtain exclusive gaming rights and enter into a state compact to conduct Class III gaming (slots and tables).
Authorizing a lottery has gained support in the Montgomery capital. A bill passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the House. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.
Alabama has long opposed gambling because of the state’s strong conservative leadership. Alabamans haven’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Republicans have held a majority in both chambers for more than a decade.
However, the tide is changing when it comes to gambling opinions in the GOP. Ivey says she’s open to legalizing a lottery and full-scale casinos, but first wants to know all the facts.
We just want the facts about how much monies the state can expect to gain if we just do a lottery, or if we do expanded gaming, or if we do a compact. And what the heck does a compact look like?” Ivey asked this week.
“What are the components of a compact?” The governor continued. “Let’s address the issue with all the facts. Nobody has the facts.”
Ivey has commissioned a state review of the economic benefits and tax revenue projections that would come with legalizing a lottery and/or forming a compact with the Poarch Band Indians. But patience is wearing thin among some Republicans. Longtime Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) will soon unveil his lottery bill.
“Personally, I don’t see the need to put the lottery in the study. There are 45 other states that have studied it,” Clouse opined.
He added, “We are at the point where it’s getting ridiculous. We have citizens from all four corners of the state and all four borders that are crossing state lines to buy multi-state Powerball tickets.”
Pause? Or End?
Ivey’s decision to order a gaming review has led to speculation that the first-term governor doesn’t want to be the one to bring gambling to Alabama.
“I think she kind of threw her stop sign out there,” Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said.
In the meantime, Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) introduced legislation this week that would ban state politicians from accepting campaign contributions from individuals that have ties to the gaming industry. That includes casinos, horse and dog racing, parimutuel wagering, lottery operations, and sports betting.
“I am not making claims of undue influence based on monetary contributions. But we must be wary of the appearance of undue influence based on campaign contributions,” McClendon said.
Since 2013, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians have contributed more than $4.7 million to Alabama lawmakers.