Republican state Sen. Jim McClendon of Springville held a news conference Tuesday morning to discuss legislation that would bring the question of a state lottery before Alabama voters.
The legislation was co-sponsored by McClendon and state Rep. Alan Harper, a Republican of Northport, who was unable to attend the news conference.
SB 19 was filed Tuesday morning and, according to McClendon, it’s a bill that simply provides state residents with the opportunity to vote on whether to have a state lottery in Alabama.
“I came forward with this bill because of my constituents,” McClendon said. “This bill will give them the chance to express themselves.”
McClendon noted that, because the bill does nothing more than provide people with the opportunity to vote on a lottery, details are unavailable on how the profits from a lottery would be allocated.
McClendon hopes to see his bill passed during the upcoming Legislative Session, which will give voters the opportunity to cast a yay or nay ballot in November.
If Alabama voters support the formation of a lottery, McClendon aims to have the details ironed out in the 2017 Legislative Session and predicts a lottery will be in operation by the beginning of 2018.
McClendon noted that polling data has been overwhelmingly favorable toward a state lottery, adding that the lowest numbers he has seen are about 70 percent.
Further, McClendon claims that the gross income from a state lottery would be between $285 million to 300 million a year.
Concerns have been raised that establishing a state lottery would create “back doors” to other types of gambling in the state, but McClendon flatly rejected that assertion.
“This bill is a lottery bill and it is nothing else,” McClendon said. “I believe there’s no way, even if somebody takes it to court, they’ll find an opportunity in here to justify gambling by any other entity that might be interested in having gambling in Alabama.”
Though McClendon believes the odds of getting the bill passed are good, even while other legislators are rumored to be drafting their own lottery and gambling bills, he knows there will be issues that arise during the session.
“There’s always hiccups,” McClendon said. “That is the nature of what we do here in the Alabama Legislature.”