Alabama could be getting a state lottery soon, with the money going to fund Medicaid and schools statewide.
State Sen. Jim McClendon, a Springville Republican, will be sponsoring a bill for the upcoming special session of the Alabama Legislature, scheduled to meet starting Aug. 15.
A study by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office says McClendon’s lottery proposal could raise as much as $427 million annually.
If approved, the revenue would be used toward a projected $85 million budget shortfall for Medicaid in 2017, as well as add $100 million annually for Alabama schools.
“It is time to let the people vote on a lottery,” McClendon said in a statement Tuesday. “For thousands of families and children, the Medicaid budget shortfall is a personal crisis that we must solve now.
“This lottery proposal will resolve the Medicaid problem and inject $100 million annually in new funding for our classrooms.”
The bill would authorize Gov. Robert Bentley to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Creek Indians, and allow electronic lottery terminals in Birmingham and Mobile, as well as Macon and Greene counties.
There would also be a bond issue based on expected revenue from the lottery, estimated at $75-85 million, to help close Medicaid’s 2017 budget gap.
“Every year, thousands of Alabamians drive to neighboring states to play lotteries,” McClendon added. “That is money that should stay right here in our own state, to fund Alabama’s hospitals and schools.
“And let me dispel a persistent myth: creating a lottery will not open the door to casino gaming. There is not one single instance in the United States where creating a lottery opened the door to legalizing gambling.”
To be included on the November ballot, a lottery bill would have to pass by Aug. 24. Final approval will then be up to voters.
“We must once and for all solve problems that have held our state back for decades. The state of Alabama has not and cannot at this time pay for the most basic services we must provide to our people,” Bentley said in a video message posted on social media July 27. “I am asking that each legislator allow the people back home the right to vote on a statewide lottery. I have faith in the people of this state to make the right and the best choice. I trust the voters and our legislators must do the same.”