With the MegaMillions jackpot topping $1 billion, many Alabamians are asking if they’ll ever have a chance to purchase a ticket in their own state.
Creating a lottery in Alabama would take a vote by first the state legislature. If lawmakers can agree on a bill, then the people would have the final say in a referendum to change the state’s constitution.
The hold-up is that lawmakers have not been able to agree on the details of that bill.
Senator Jabo Waggoner (R- Vestavia Hills) says there's more support for the lottery today- than the last time the people had the chance to vote in 1999.
“I think it would have a lot better chance today passing the people by referendum,” he told us. “All of our surrounding states have it. There’s people going across the state line every day, every week, every month to buy lottery tickets.”
Waggoner believes there's more than 50 percent chance voters will have the opportunity again.
“If the polls show overwhelming support for this, it’s very difficult to vote against public sentiment sometimes on certain issues,” he said.
Waggoner previously led filibusters against lottery proposals. Now- he says he'd back it with proper safeguards, including details of the control, who would manage it, where the revenue goes, and whether it opens the door for the future expansion of gambling.
So why did the lottery bill it die in previous years?
We went to Senator Jim Mcclendon (R- Springville), who's lottery bill was very close to passing in 2016.
“There are folks that have religious objections, that it’s just not right, that it’s not good for poor people,” he explained. “So there are a number of factors that come into play but what we’ve seen recently, we’ve seen an really increased attention from the public making it clear they want the opportunity to vote.”
In 2016, McClendon’s bill passed the Senate, and then it passed the House. But the House added an amendment that McClendon calls the “poison pill.” It was one the Senate did not vote to accept. That amendment would make the lottery paper only.
“What happens when it goes paper only, instead of having any electronic opportunities, than you’ve just shut down Green County, Lowndes County, I don’t know how you’ve affected the Poarch Creek Indians with that but suddenly there’s hundreds of people employed that will be unemployed,” he explained.
Next year will have all new odds, with not only increased public support, but also new players at the State House.
Speaker Mac McCutcheon expects 27 new House members after the November election.
Waggoner expects 12 new senators, which will be one third of the Alabama Senate.
“I, for one, do not have any idea how these 12 new ones feel about the lottery or gambling in general,” Waggoner said.
He expects it to be one of the first issues lawmakers tackle when they return in March.