Senate punts on lottery bill

Lottery legislation faltered in the Alabama Senate on Wednesday amid deep divisions among lawmakers over gambling.

Alabama lawmakers began debating Gov. Robert Bentley's lottery plan Friday afternoon. The bill would have also allowed electronic lottery terminals, which can resemble slot machines and video poker games, in Lowndes and Houston counties, in addition to four state dog tracks.

Senators approved the bill on a 21-12 vote, hitting exactly the 21 yes votes needed to approve the proposed constitutional amendment.

Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, said his north Alabama constituents want to vote on a lottery, but also expect at least some of the lottery proceeds to help education.

Unlike his lottery bill, McClendon said that the Bentley proposal is "simpler" and will not include lottery machines at dog tracks and other specific location.

The body Thursday rejected a more sweeping lottery and gambling bill sponsored by McClendon.

The governor's bill got some initial debate after the failure of McClendon's lottery bill was carried over. "For instance, right now there's a scholarship program and some people would rather see the money go to education", Marsh said.

"I'm ready to vote".

Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, said the reason the Legislature was in was the General Fund. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, the sponsor of the lottery amendment.

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"Let's allow the people back home to vote".

Before Reed's amendment passed, State Sen. Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, said the bill would open the door to casinos and leave the poor at risk.

Bentley's five-page bill calls for the establishment of a seven-member lottery commission to run the lottery.

The other divisive issue of the session will be before senators next week: a proposal for using oil spill settlement dollars to pay state debts and build roads.

Bentley estimated a lottery alone would raise $225 million.

As far as McClendon's bill is concerned, amendments were made as well in an attempt to gain support but these efforts were seemingly fruitless.

Alabama is one of six states - along with Mississippi, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada - without a state lottery.

Because the Alabama Constitution bans most games of chance, three-fifths of legislators would have to approve any gambling legislation and a majority of voters would have to approve changing the state constitution to allow a lottery or gambling. Then governor Don Siegelman tried but failed to sway senators to approve a proposed lottery bill in 1999.

"Any business that's prohibited from advertising and marketing will be put at a disadvantage", McClendon said.

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