Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Gambling Policy has released a report claiming that Alabama could generate up to $700 million from a lottery. The governor formed the group in February, with former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange chairing the 12-member group.
The 876-page detailed report estimated that the state could draw somewhere between $510 million to $710 million from casinos and sports betting if voters agreed to a constitutional amendment expanding gambling in the state. The same report claimed a state lottery could generate around $300 million in tax dollars, casinos could draw up to $400 million, and regulated sports betting could generate up to $10 million in tax revenue.
What Did The Report Conclude?
The report concluded that the lawmakers and voters have five options from which to choose:
- Maintain the status quo, however, it will offer a few benefits for the state
- Prohibit gambling altogether, providing uniform enforcement
- Ban all forms of gambling except a lottery
- Allow expanded gambling on a limited basis, and also limited by geographic locations
- Allow a complete expansion of gambling, including a lottery and casinos
All options that the report concluded, except maintain the status quo, require the legislative nod of a constitutional amendment approved by Alabama voters.
The Report Recommends Legalized Gambling in Alabama
The report did not directly recommend whether the state should move forward with legalizing the industry. However, the options it provided clearly supported the regulation of the industry.
While summarizing the report by mentioning two conclusions, Strange said, “One, gambling will work in Alabama, and we feel that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages in the endeavor.” Advantages are purely economic as they would be the new revenue sources and creation of jobs. Disadvantages would include the costs caused by problem gambling. However, the report suggested the state could apply a fraction of the revenue to help address those problems such as addiction and mental health.
A Single Regulatory Authority
Alabama is among the few remaining US jurisdictions without a state lottery. The Yellowhammer State has a few tribal casinos, and horse racing and daily fantasy sports contests are currently legal in the state. But the voters rejected the addition of a lottery in 1999.
The latest report asserts the need to establish a sole authority to regulate, administer, and enforce the gambling laws. However, Strange recommended that such authority be run by a board of trustees appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. The governor said it was essential to gather facts so that lawmakers and voters can make informed decisions about whether to form a lottery or other form of legal gambling. She said as many as forty-five other states have lotteries, including the four bordering Alabama.
Gov. Encourages All to ‘Pore Over the Findings’
The Study Group that was formed in February continued its work despite the COVID-19 outbreak in March. Ivey thanked the group for its laborious work that included one public meeting and four digital meetings after the pandemic struck.
The governor said she is convinced the research would be pivotal as gambling policies are being considered and debated. She encouraged the legislature and the residents to “pore over the findings” too. She said the potential to act on the industry is an opportunity that must be shared by all stakeholders. Ivey said that it is incumbent on us to work jointly to provide the people of Alabama with the opportunity to determine the future of gambling in the state.