Gambling not a problem in Alabama, will legislation change that?

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Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday begin the home stretch of the 2016 legislative session, and despite passing the state’s General Fund and Education budgets, one dilemma remains unsolved: the shortfall in the state’s Medicaid funding.

With five legislative meeting days remaining, lawmakers in Montgomery are scrambling for creative fixes on how to handle a projected $85 million shortfall for next year’s Medicaid funding. Overtime lawmaking and special session looms in the Legislature’s future.

Historically one of the most talked about, and most controversial, solutions to help generate revenue — a state lottery.

Despite the fact Alabama could benefit greatly from the revenue a state lottery would generate — Missouri is expecting to generate “several million” dollars from fantasy contest regulation (an industry slated to rake in about $20 billion by 2020) and South Dakota has raised nearly $2.5 billion through its state lottery — state lawmakers appear poised to avoid a vote on the topic, letting another year tick by with no long-term budget solution.

Being in the Bible Belt may be the biggest reason Alabamians have long opposed a state lottery, which was last voted on nearly 17 years ago under then-Gov. Don Siegelman. And new data from the personal finance website WalletHub may strengthen the debate against a state lottery — the Yellowhammer State ranks the 3rd least gambling-addicted state in America. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of access, but Alabamians are able to avoid the economic consequences of a gambling addiction, which affects slightly more than 2 percent of all U.S. adults. According to the Mayo Clinic, “gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system much like drugs such as alcohol can, leading to addiction.”

That addiction can lead to serious economic consequences. On a societal level, compulsive gambling costs an estimated $6 billion per year, according to a study by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Gambling addiction in Alabama (1=Most Addicted, 25=Avg.):

  • 34th: Number of casinos per capita
  • 34th: Number of gaming Machines per capita
  • 44th: Lottery sales per Capita
  • 40th: Number of gambling-related arrests per capita
  • 20th: Legality of daily fantasy sports
  • 18th: NCPG (National Council on Problem Gambling) affiliation

Take a look at how Alabama’s gambling addiction, or rather lack thereof, compares to the rest of the country:

Source: WalletHub

Whether or not the Legislature will consider a state lottery to help fund the Medicaid shortfall during the remaining days of Legislative session remains to be seen.

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