Legislation that will pave the way for lottery and table gaming in Alabama remains alive in the State Senate.
On Tuesday, the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee voted 6-2 in favor of the proposal to hold a referendum on creating a state lottery and legalizing casino-style gambling in four locations across the state, The Washington Times reported.
The bill cleared its first hurdle in the legislature, but not without some drama.
State Sen. Del Marsh, who reintroduced the bill last July, said legalizing gambling will create at least $400 million in new revenue and generate 11,000 new jobs in Alabama, a good way to replenish the state’s coffers. But opponents argued that gambling will only “prey on the state’s poor.”
Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, opened Tuesday’s session with a diatribe directed towards fellow Republicans who have started supporting the bill, saying it was once only the Democrats that promoted gambling in the state.
“When you’ve got a turnaround of this magnitude, I’m telling you there is something that stinks badly here,” said Brewbaker, according to news outlet AL.com.
Then Democrat Sen. Bobby Singleton called out Brewbaker on his “hyprocrisy” of not only opposing gambling, but also refusing to support other solutions to end the state’s budget woes.
“You don’t care nothing about poor folk,” Singleton said, referring to Brewbaker’s concern that the poor will be victimized by gambling.
Marsh also had a go at Brewbaker, saying the special session’s goal is to address the pending budget crisis and one of the ways is to move $225 million out of the state’s education budget into the Alabama General Fund. But lawmakers will have to refill that cache from some source, like taxes from gambling.
“The people understand that this is an option that needs to be out there,” said Marsh.
Once passed, Marsh’s bill will implement a three-step plan: create the Alabama Lottery Corporation; allow slot machines and table games at four existing racetracks in Mobile, Macon County, Greene County and Birmingham; and authorize Gov. Robert Bentley to negotiate a compact for gaming with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to include slot machines and table games at their facilities.
The tribe, which opposes allowing slot machines and casino table games at the tracks, had offered a $250 million loan or payment to cover the state’s budget shortfall.
“It is time that Alabama dollars stayed right here in Alabama, creating new jobs for our workers, creating new investments for our businesses, and expanding tourism and opportunities for our towns and cities,” Marsh previously said in a statement. “We can achieve all that without raising taxes.”
Expanding the gambling industry in Alabama has been a hot topic in the state for years. Just recently, the Alabama Jobs Foundation came out with data showing majority of the state voters want a chance to vote on potential lottery and casino expansion.
According to the poll, 89 percent want a vote on gambling; 80 percent support a lottery for education; 69 percent support a constitutional amendment for gambling; and 66 percent oppose new taxes to solve the states projected $200 million budget shortfall.