Kay Ivey seeks pause on gambling debate, says facts needed

Gov. Kay Ivey, center, is introduced and invited into the chamber to give the State of the State Address to a joint session of the Alabama Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in the old house chamber of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Kay Ivey said Wednesday that she will not consider a gambling compact with an Alabama tribe until she gets findings from a new work group later this year.

She also urged lawmakers to hold off on debate on a state lottery as well, although some lawmakers indicated they want to push forward in the hopes of getting a lottery before voters in November.

“Let’s address the issue with all the facts. Nobody has the facts,” Ivey said in an interview with The Associated Press and other news outlets.

The Republican governor attempted to press the pause button on legislative debate on a lottery and other gambling proposals by announcing the creation of a new work group to study gambling proposals and revenue projections. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians have renewed their push for a compact, running ads on television and sending direct mail pieces to voters. Ivey said she will not make a decision until the work group returns findings.

“We just want the facts about how much monies the state can expect to gain if we just do a lottery or if we do expanded gaming or if we do a compact. And what the heck does a compact look like? What are the components of a compact?” The governor said she was giving the group until the end of the year to return their findings.

While the governor has the power to sign a state compact with the tribe, it is up to lawmakers on how to proceed on a lottery bill.

The governor said she called the House budget chairman who was planning to introduce a lottery bill and invited him to “consider what I’m going to do and maybe join me.”

“It’s fine with me to introduce it, but my point is let’s address the issue, whenever that is, with all the facts,” Ivey said.

Rep. Steve Clouse said he plans to introduce the lottery bill in a few weeks and then will continue conversations with the governor’s office.

“Personally, I don’t see the need to put the lottery in the study. There are 45 other states that have studied it,” Clouse, a Republican from Ozark, said.

Alabama is one of five states without state lottery. Clouse said he’d like to get the issue on the November ballot. Mississippi started a lottery last year.

“We are at the point where it’s getting ridiculous. We have citizens from all four corners of the state and all four borders that are crossing state lines to buy multi-state Powerball tickets.”

However, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton said Tuesday night that he believed many lawmakers will take the creation of a study commission as a reason, or perhaps an excuse, to pause before plunging forward.

“I think she kind of threw her stop sign out there,” Singleton said.

The governor has not announced who will serve on the work group. Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said potential members are being vetted and will be announced soon.

Republished with the Permission of the Associated Press.