Lottery

TNS

Your turn, Alabama.

That’s the knee-jerk response to Mississippi’s embrace of gambling — legal sports betting and a state lottery. Alabama’s DNA is no more conservative or steeped in Bible Belt bonafides than its Deep South neighbors, yet our state remains a lottery holdout surrounded on all sides by those who have sidestepped their pretenses against gambling and maneuvered through lotteries’ vast political minefields.

Your turn, Alabama.

It’s not that easy, of course. If it was, Alabamians by now would have had an opportunity to cast an up-or-down vote on a lottery. But decades of news clippings document our state’s tortured back-and-forth about a lottery that would ostensibly fund any number of worthwhile needs, particularly public education. Georgia’s had a lottery seemingly forever. Tennessee’s began 15 years ago. Florida’s lottery is 30 years old. And Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign the lottery law passed by his state’s Legislature.

Your turn, Alabama.

Not so fast. Politics will have a say in this. Alabama Republicans are historically against a state-run lottery — especially if they’re friendly with gaming interests in neighboring states. Alabama Democrats are historically agreeable to a state-run lottery, but they’re virtually powerless to make that happen. Plus, most Democratic candidates for governor — including this year’s candidate, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox — have based their campaigns largely around a lottery for schools. That Alabama is nowhere close to having a lottery tells you all you need to know about Democrats’ weakness and who wields power in Montgomery.

Your turn, Alabama.

But there are issues, and they are significant. Gambling is often beset with terrible side effects — addiction and corruption, for instance — that pro-lottery types sometime overlook. Plus, lotteries carry the stain of regressive sales taxes that affect low-income residents worse than the well-to-do. And never forget the power of the pulpit, though we assume some Alabama evangelicals gamble and hope no one notices.

Your turn, Alabama?

Truthfully, no. Not anytime soon, at least. Our public schools could use revenue from a statewide lottery, but as long as this generation of Alabama Republicans controls our politics — Republicans who occasionally seem open to a lottery referendum but never follow through on it — a lottery isn’t likely to happen.

Loading...
Loading...