Alabama doesn’t need a statewide lottery. It needs better public schools and lower poverty rates and properly run prisons and improved infrastructure and a host of other things — some massive, others less so but nonetheless important. But a lottery isn’t a must-have.
That said, Alabamians deserve the opportunity to vote on a statewide lottery. Let voters, not politicians, decide. The argument has gone on too long, years upon years. But if Alabamians do get that opportunity, we hope the lottery proposal they’ll consider will be better than the one that passed the state Senate this week.
How should we put this?
Senate Bill 220 stinks.
Yeah, that’s a fair statement. SB220 stinks. It stinks financially and politically. At best, rough projections say it would raise just $160 million a year — which is chump change among state lotteries. It strongly protects the gaming interests of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the independent kingpins of gambling in our state.
And worse, still — it would provide no money to the Education Trust Fund. Not a penny.
Gambling bleeds byproducts, most of them nasty to the core. In particular, lotteries hurt the poor more than the well-to-do, negatively affect poverty rates and can be dreadful for people suffering from addictive behaviors. Lotteries’ only redeeming value is the financial windfall they can provide to statewide programs, namely, public education. But that’s not the case with SB220.
State Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, are the masterminds behind a pro-Poarch Band lottery bill that barely passed the Senate and squanders its only true value — the opportunity to boost public education in Alabama. They should be ashamed.
SB220 is a sham and a disgrace. The Alabama House should give it scant consideration without amending it to include new revenue for public schools. And if Alabama voters eventually vote on a lottery that doesn’t help public education, they should vote it down, and emphatically so.