Home Dice Alabama lawmakers roll the dice on new lottery bill

Alabama lawmakers roll the dice on new lottery bill

Alabama lawmakers during the 2021 legislative session. (Photo by: Miranda Fulmore, WBHM)

An Alabama Senate committee on Wednesday considered a bill that would expand and regulate gambling in Alabama. Proponents of the game have tried for years to adopt some kind of gambling or lottery measure, but have never succeeded.

“[The bill] looks a lot like the proposal that nearly passed the legislature last year,” said Todd Stacyhost of the Capitol Journal on Alabama Public Television and publisher of the Alabama Daily News.

Stacy provided an update on this week’s action in the Legislative Assembly.

gambling bill

The latest gambling bill came from Republican Senator Greg Albritton. It would authorize a state lottery, sports betting, eight full casinos and two smaller gambling operations. Alabama is one of five states that do not have a lottery. The casinos would be located on dog runs and facilities already operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Proceeds from the lottery would go to scholarships. Revenues from casinos and sports betting would go towards broadband, health care and a possible expansion of Medicaid. The proposal is a constitutional amendment, which means it would need to be approved by voters to go into effect.

The bill is going through a Senate committee, and Todd said it’s likely the Senate will pass it as well. But, like last year, he expected blockages in the House.

“I think if you just had a vote on the floor, they would easily pass it,” Stacy said. “The problem is getting him to the ground. There are a lot of people who want to pull the various levers of power to keep things from hitting the ground like this.

Todd said a lawmaker told him they had no appetite for the game this year.

“But never say never, because the interest in the game is sometimes very powerful and very persuasive, and so there’s always a chance,” Stacy said.

Dividing Concepts Bill

A bill banning teachers from teaching certain “dividing concepts” hit a snag this week. The measure is seen as a compromise to an earlier proposal that sought to ban critical race theory. This bill does not mention this concept by name, but imposes restrictions on how issues of race, gender and religion can be taught. For example, it prohibits teaching that the United States is “inherently racist or sexist.”

The divisive concepts bill passed a Senate committee on Tuesday, but received a different reception in a House committee.

“This committee has gotten pretty dramatic, actually, with some pretty harsh words being exchanged between Republicans and Democrats,” Stacy said.

Democrats have argued that the state school board has already banned critical race theory and it is not taught in K-12 schools, so there is no need to enact it. The House committee decided to postpone the bill, which delays it.

“Senate legislation is in a position to pass. We’ll see if lawmakers really want to look into that,” Stacy said.

Postpartum Medicaid care

Currently, women on Medicaid in Alabama have coverage for 60 days after the birth of a child. Advocates have pushed to expand saying that new mothers need more care and that it would help reduce poor medical outcomes. About half of births in Alabama are covered by Medicaid.

A proposal that is part of the General Fund budget would extend coverage to a full year.

“There is funding for that in the budget. There’s an agreement with the Medicaid agency to do that,” Stacy said. “As long as this budget is passed, it’s a big win for these defenders.”

It’s not an expansion of Medicaid and doesn’t increase enrollees, which Stacy says makes it more palatable to Republicans. Yet support for Medicaid expansion is growing even among Republicans. He cited a poll that found 72% of Alabamians and 66% of Republicans supported the move.

“That’s hard to do in an election year,” Stacy said. “But I expect the problem to arise maybe next year. It’s probably only a matter of time before Alabama expands Medicaid in one form or another.

Includes reports from the Associated Press