Sen. Gudger talks about lottery vote, new bills

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State Senator Garlan Gudger (Photo courtesy Alabama Senate) 


 MONTGOMERY, Ala. – On Mar. 9, the Alabama State Senate considered a bill that would have opened the door for a citizens’ vote on a state lottery, as well as other forms of gambling. Though the measure got a majority vote of 19, it fell short of the 21 votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment bill, and so failed. Cullman’s Sen. Garlan Gudger voted against the bill and talked this week about his reasons for doing so. 

 

Gudger told The Tribune, “Everybody says, ‘Why did you vote no on the lottery?’ And I just want people to understand, you know, this was not a lottery bill. This was a casino bill with lipstick on it to make it a lottery bill. There’s a lot of people who think it was just a lottery, but it wasn’t. It was going to be 10 casinos that were going to be available in the state of Alabama, seven on the act that we were going to try to pass but it failed in the Senate, and then three from the Poarch Creek Indians that, if that passed, then Poarch Creek Indians would have their three that didn’t give any tax money to the state.  

 

“And so, I just didn’t feel good about having casinos. I think we would be going from playing paper Bingo one night to being, like, in Vegas the next day. And I just think that’s extreme, and too fast and too hard for Alabamians right now. And I think if Alabamians wanted a plain, simple paper lottery- scratch-off tickets, Powerball, multi-state, Pick-5, Pick-7 and then lotto tickets like at convenience stores and, again, just paper lottery, then I think that my vote would be yes to that. But as far as casinos and gaming, I don’t think that I’mthat Alabamians or my constituentsare ready for that. 

 

So I just wanted people to know the difference in what I voted for and what’s still coming out of the Senate right now.”  

 

Gudger’s own proposal 

 

Sen. Gudger demonstrated his willingness to consider a lottery by introducing his own bill and by co-sponsoring a similar but slightly expanded bill by Sen. Jim McLendon, who also co-sponsored Gudger’s.  

 

Said Gudger, “There’s two lottery bills. One is mine, which is just a simple paper lottery like I just said, and the other one is Senator McLendon’s bill, and he’s got more: same paper lottery, but also on your phone-you can play it on your phonewhere I don’t have electronic bingos in mine. I just have it where you have to do paper.” 

 

Both bills propose constitutional amendments that would require a vote by citizens of the state. 

 

Failed Senate Bill 214 

 

A synopsis included in the failed bill sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh reads: 

 

“Under existing law, lotteries and gift enterprises are prohibited by Section 65 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901. This bill proposes an amendment to Section 65 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to establish the Alabama Education Lottery and the Alabama Education Lottery Corporation and require the Legislature to enact one or more general laws to provide for the duties, powers, authority and composition of the corporation.  

 

“The proposed amendment would also create the Alabama Gaming Commission to supervise the conduct of bingo, charitable bingo, sports wagering and casino-style games in the state.  

 

“The proposed amendment would provide that casino-style games and sports wagering may be operated only at Greenetrack, the Birmingham Race Course, the Greyhound Racing Facility in Mobile, VictoryLand, an additional site in Jackson or DeKalb County operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and on lands held in trust for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians pursuant to a compact. The proposed amendment would impose specified license fees for a license to operate casino-style games for specified terms and a nominal license fee established by the commission for charitable bingo operations.  

 

“The amendment would also impose a tax of 20 percent on the net gaming revenues of the gaming operations in the state except operations on lands held in trust for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.  

 

“The proposed amendment would require the Governor to negotiate in good faith a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to authorize casino-style games on lands held in trust for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and require the Legislature to enact implementing legislation.” 

 

Gudger’s Senate Bill 318 

 

A synopsis included at the beginning of the bill reads: 

 

“Under existing law, lotteries and gift enterprises are prohibited by Section 65 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901. This bill proposes an amendment to Section 65 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 to establish an Alabama Lottery, to provide for the sale of lottery tickets, including instant tickets and multi-state lottery games, to provide for the distribution of lottery proceeds and to require the Legislature to pass general laws to implement the amendment.” 

 

If a constitutional amendment is passed based on SB 318, the amendment will include new wording: 

 

Section 1. Declarations.  

 

The Legislature finds that lotteries have been enacted in many states and the revenues generated from those lotteries have contributed to the benefit of those states. Many Alabamians already participate in other state lotteries. Therefore, the purpose of the proposed amendment is to establish and provide for a lottery to generate revenue for the state.” 

 

Section 2. Establishment of an Alabama Lottery. 

 

(a) The Legislature, by general law, shall provide for the establishment, administration, operation and regulation of an Alabama Lottery consistent with this part. 

 

(b) Each fiscal year, the proceeds from the Alabama Lottery shall be applied first to the payment of the expenses of administering and operating the Alabama Lottery, including, without limitation, the payment of all prizes, and five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) shall be set apart and used to fund programs that aid compulsive gambling, without any further appropriation required by law, and the balance of the proceeds remaining after the payments shall be used to fund a postsecondary scholarship program as established by general law and to provide mental health resources in public schools in this state. 

 

(c) The lottery games authorized by this part shall be limited to the sale of paper tickets for instant lottery games and paper or electronic tickets for non-instant lottery games for which numbers are drawn to determine a winner. This authorization includes reciprocal agreements with other states and jurisdictions outside of Alabama for the operation and promotion of lottery activities. Tickets may be sold at retail outlets as provided by general law or rule including through automated, player self-service vending machines. Specifically excluded from this authorization is any form of video lottery or the use of video lottery terminal or any mobile, Internet-based, monitor-based interactive game, or any simulated casino-style game, including slot machines, video poker, roulette, blackjack or any variant of prohibited games. 

 

McLendon’s Senate Bill 319 

 

A synopsis included at the beginning of the bill reads: 

 

“Under existing law, lotteries and gift enterprises are prohibited. This bill would propose an amendment to Section 65 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to establish an Alabama Lottery, establish the Lottery Trust Fund provide for the allocation of lottery proceeds to the Lottery Trust Fund, establish the Alabama Lottery Corporation and the Alabama Lottery Commission to regulate and supervise the operation of the Alabama Lottery Corporation and provide for the appointment of members to the commission. The amendment would also authorize the use of video lottery terminals by the entities currently licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering and an additional site in Lowndes County and to levy a state and local tax on revenue from video lottery terminals and a state tax on video lottery vendors, and authorize the Legislature to pass general laws to implement the amendment.” 

 

The constitutional amendment under McLendon’s bill would define: 

 

Games Allowed; Games Not Allowed.  

 

(a) The corporation may allow lottery games of all types. Games may include, but are not limited to, new games, draw lotteries of various types, interstate lotteries such as Powerball and Mega Millions, instant winners such as scratch-offs, Keno, and iLottery or any other lottery offered in another state. Video lottery terminals may be used only at licensed facilities. The corporation shall make participation convenient by ensuring that purchases are available at retail outlets either by ticket purchase from an employee or from a kiosk or vending machine that does not require an employee to handle the transaction. The corporation may allow iLottery, mobile platforms and computer purchases.  

 

(b) The corporation may not approve or operate any casino or similar gambling establishment and may not approve or operate any game played with playing cards, dice, dominos, slot machines or roulette wheels. Any game using live dealers is strictly prohibited. 

 

Gudger concluded, “There’s pros and cons to each (bill), but I want people to truly understand why we wouldn’t allow people to vote on what they’re saying is the lottery, but it wasn’t. It was a casino bill.” 

 

Both bills are before the Senate Tourism Committee for review this week. 

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com