On February 4, the Alabama State Legislature opened its 2020 legislative session. Discussions quickly turned to gambling, and what needs to be done to protect the state from the influence of gambling interests.
To begin the session, Sen. Jim McClendon, the Republican from Birmingham, presented a bill that would prohibit gambling interests from giving money to state lawmakers, the Governor and Lt. Governor, as well as all candidates for state offices.
McClendon pointed out that these gambling interests have already given lawmakers hundreds of thousands of dollars, a practice that needs to come to an end. “I am not making claims of corruption,” he explained, “but we must be very wary of the appearance of corruption. I’m not making claims of undue influence based on monetary contributions, but we must be very wary of the appearance of undue influence.”
Lawmakers are not the only ones who are concerned. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced on February 5 that she will not consider meeting with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to expand gambling in the state unless she is provided with hard numbers about how much money the state would receive in tax revenue.
The governor also wanted to know how much money a lottery would raise for the state, while insisting that no further action be taken until there are clear numbers provided. However, one lawmaker noted that the House Budget Committee has already reviewed the potential revenue impact of a legal lottery. He is hoping that the bill will pass and an initiative to be on the ballot for voters by November.
Tuesday night, Gov. Ivey announced a fact-finding initiative during her State of the State Address. She said she would name the members of a committee within the next few days to review gambling issues.
“But I want them to be thorough and get the facts,” Ivey said. “That’s all I want is the facts, not recommendations. I 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 (an agreement with the Poarch Creeks),” the governor explained during her address.
Because gambling is already legal in three of the five states surrounding Alabama, it has widely been seen as logical to allow this activity in the state. Many lawmakers have concluded legal gambling will generate $1 billion in revenue.