Alabama lottery bill on track

Alabama lottery bill on track

Friday, May 15, 2015
Del Marsh's bill will now be voted on by the Alabama Senate

Alabama has become the latest US state to move towards an expansion of its gambling industry.

A bill that would set up a statewide lottery and allow casinos at Alabama’s four racetracks – which supporters say could generate $1.20bn (€1.06bn) per year in revenue - was passed this week by the Senate Tourism Committee.

Senator Del Marsh’s bill would also form an Alabama Lottery Corporation to administer the lotto, and the Alabama Lottery and Gaming Commission to oversee all gambling in the state. The bill will now be put to a full vote by legislators, but must then also be passed by the electorate – possibly in September.

Marsh says his plan would create 11,000 new jobs and generate $400m annually for Alabama's general fund budget, based on research by Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM). He received support from William Bell, Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama who is keen to see Birmingham Race Course regenerated.

“You're talking about over 400 acres that have not been developed around the horse track that you could have a lot of entertainment, new hotels coming into play,” Bell said. “The number of jobs it would create in the Birmingham area would be tremendous.

“It's a game changer as to how people look at when they bring conferences and conventions to Birmingham. It would change our ability to show the type of entertainment that we have."

The bill was only passed by 5-3, with opponents claiming the bill would only be a short-term fix, could lead to an increase in criminality and may promote problem gambling. 

In testimony in front of the committee, Jay Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Project, said: “It is a tax. It's a tax on the poor. It preys on the people who can least afford to pay it.” 

The passage of the bill came as the New York Gaming Association (NYGA) used its 2014 annual report to detail the benefits gambling can offer, noting that its members generated gross gaming revenue of $1.9bn in 2014, with $864m of this being deducted and distributed to education in New York.

This week Indiana has also passed laws that would further casino and horse racing in the state, with many other areas in the US looking at the gambling industry as a way of raising government funds.

Marsh believes that slight expansion in the gaming sector is a better option to boost coffers than adding a further burden on the taxpayers.

“Your options are significant tax increases to the people of Alabama that I'm convinced are already paying enough taxes or taking gaming revenue that these gaming facilities are already here, and implementing a lottery,” Marsh said.

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