The people's voice of reason

Democrats are deeply disappointed that gambling bill failed

On Friday, the Alabama House Democratic Caucus released a statement expressing disappointment that the lottery and gaming legislation failed in yet another legislative session.

"We are deeply disappointed that the people of Alabama will, once again, be denied the right to vote on this important issue," the House Democrats wrote. "From the beginning, House Democrats have honored the clear mandate given by the People of Alabama, fighting for a true education lottery wholly devoted to education, and securing funding for health care throughout Alabama."

"Inevitably, people will continue to spend money on the lottery and other types of gaming in adjoining states and, sadly, Alabama will miss out on that sorely needed revenue," the House Democrats continued. "We expect that this issue will be considered in the future, and we will once again expect the clear mandate of Alabama voters to be reflected in any good-faith gaming legislation."

Polling consistently shows that the people of Alabama are in favor a lottery. Polls also show that most Alabamians oppose casinos – particularly in their home counties where their communities would be directly exposed to the crime and other social costs of gambling addictions. A clean lottery bill would likely be ratified by the voters; but gambling proponents in the Legislature would never allow clean paper lottery only pass, because they know that a casino bill likely would never be ratified so they always attach some sort of legalization of outlaw casinos to the lottery. To complicate matters further, the Legislature want to be able to cherry pick which group of gamblers benefit from their legislation and then close the illegal gambling sites that they don't like.

Inevitably, satisfying all of the feuding gambling syndicates proves to be too difficult and one of them pulls out of the deal at the last minute. This time the Poarch Creek band of Indians (PCI) came to the last-minute conclusion that the third version of the gambling bill was not in their best interests and urged the Senate sponsor, Senator Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), to kill the bill on the verge of final passage. The last week and a half of the session was spent with the Governor's office, Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), and Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Reed (R-Jasper) in an ultimately futile effort to resurrect the bill after the PCI revolt.

PCI operates three electronic bingo type casinos in Atmore, Wetumpka, and Montgomery. They are federally licensed. In addition to PCI's legally licensed operations, there are over 50 illegal gambling operations across the state. Most receive some level of "protection" from local law enforcement and district attorneys allowing them to operate in defiance of the Alabama Constitution which forbids games of chance outside of charity bingo on paper cards.

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