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Proposed state lottery back on the table, being tied to school security, scholarshipscomment (0)

February 14, 2013

By Jennifer Davis Rash

It’s a victory well over a decade old, but it’s one Alabama Baptists still high-five over when the topic surfaces.

The faith voice was certainly the underdog and predicted to lose, but when the votes were counted in 1999 then-Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposed lottery went down in defeat — a shock that still resonates strong emotions on both sides.

The battle in the state soon moved to electronic bingo gambling, climaxing and coming to a near halt in 2009–2010. A major court case in 2012 promised to change the face of gambling efforts in the state forever, but the defendants not pleading guilty all walked free.

And for a while, the attempts to legalize gambling in the state were quiet. Until now.

Milton McGregor reignited the electronic bingo gambling debate in December 2012 by reopening his closed-down casino. 

At press time the casino remained open despite the fact the law does not allow for slot machines parading as electronic bingo machines.

But McGregor’s stand may be muffled, even snuffed out, if the state House of Representatives moves forward with legislation being proposed for a state lottery.

The lottery is being attached to school security and education enhancement, according to House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden. 

The Birmingham News reported Ford as saying the first $25 million of the estimated $250 million raised annually would go toward funding a school resource officer in every public school. The remaining $225 million would buy classroom supplies and provide college scholarships for A–B students, according to the News article quoting Ford.

Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program, said, “This is just the latest hot button topic those promoting gambling in the state are using to sell it to the citizens of Alabama. 

“Gambling proponents continue to make claims that they can never meet,” he said, noting the decision in the 1980s to approve dog racing in the state.

The citizens of Birmingham were told that the city’s schools would never want for money if they would vote in favor of building the Birmingham Race Course and expanding gambling, Godfrey said. 

“How did that promise work out?” he asked.

“It’s not a new technique to tie an attempt to expand gambling to something the people are concerned about, but this is not the answer,” he said. 

“It is not right for the state to fund projects or make a profit on the backs of those who are the least among us. And it will be the poor who put the most money into a lottery.”

Alabama is one of only seven states left in the United States without some form of lottery. The other states with no form of lottery are Mississippi, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii.

The Legislature convened for the 2013 session Feb. 5. 

The Alabama Baptist will follow the lottery legislation as well as other important bills throughout the session. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and at alert.thealabamabaptist.com for breaking news items. 

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