WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Alabama lottery bill rejected due to lawmakers' mixed opinions

WAAY 31's I-TEAM looked at the winners and losers in Alabama’s lottery fight.

Posted: Jun 5, 2019 6:28 PM
Updated: Jun 5, 2019 6:51 PM

When it comes to Alabama’s chances of getting a lottery any time soon, all bets are off. 

Voters rejected a statewide lottery in 1999. This past legislative session, lawmakers came close to putting it on ballots again. Then, the effort failed at the last minute.

“I’d rather keep the money at home,” Gary Kulaw told WAAY 31. He’s like a lot of folks in Alabama. When he wants to buy a lottery ticket, it's time for a road trip.

“When the jackpot gets high enough, me and my buddies all pool together and go out-of-state and buy the tickets,” Kulaw said.

Alabama's Senate narrowly approved plans for a lottery, but it died in the House. It missed making it to the floor for debate by one vote.

Some lawmakers disagreed how to slice up the lottery money. Others cited moral objections to gambling.

Kulaw says Alabama could have put the lottery money to good use. “Education,” Kulaw said, as he looked at his granddaughter, Lilly. “Some of these facilities we’ve got for parks, I think that would be a good use of it.”

Alabama educators say schools lost out when the lottery bill died in Montgomery. In many lottery states, the biggest chunk of ticket money goes to schools.

“I feel like it would help with the school systems a lot with the revenue coming in,” Austin Wilson told WAAY 31. “That would be awesome.”

In Alabama, the lottery lost because Democrats wanted half of the estimated $167 billion a year to go to schools. Republicans wanted 25 percent.

In Tennessee and Georgia, all lottery profit goes to education.

According to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, right now, there are 44 states with active lotteries.

Mississippi has approved a lottery, but it’s still working to get it up and running. By our count, at least half of state lotteries dedicate at least some money to public education.

Also, some states use lottery money for senior citizens. For example, lottery money goes to pay for prescriptions, transportation and property tax rebates for seniors. Veteran programs benefit from some state lotteries.

“You can look at the state of Tennessee,” Wilson said. “You can see the revenue differences just from the lottery.” He says Alabama would be better off with a lottery. 

“I hope they bring the lottery in,” he said. “I’m 17 and I can’t even play it yet, but I feel like it would be a good thing in the long run.”

Another objection to lotteries is the concern of gambling addiction. Many states set aside some lottery profit to help programs treat gambling addicts.

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