Local reaction to another attempt at passing Alabama lottery legislation

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - There's less than one mile of Chattahoochee River separating the Georgia-Alabama state line, but that short distance defines many resident's detours to get lottery tickets. In fact, Alabama is isolated by four states on all sides -- the only one without a state lottery system.

Gas station employees and customers in Columbus tell News 3 they are no strangers to their Alabama neighbors making the trip for a chance at the jackpot.

"I remember when Georgia didn't have it and I had family members driving to Florida. That's a long way to buy a lottery ticket," one woman tells News 3's Mikhaela Singleton while she pumps gas. 

Wednesday, the Alabama Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee passed Senate Bill 326. The bill proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the sale and play of multi-state lottery games like Power Ball and Mega Millions.

The bill has a long way to go, including two votes across the Senate then House of Representatives floor. However, local representatives covering Lee and Russell Counties say so far, it's a bill they can get behind.

"I certainly think the people of Alabama should have the opportunity to vote on a lottery bill," says Senator Gerald Dial. "I would certainly support a lottery bill that adjusts and looks at the other aspects of gambling in this state."

The other aspects he mentions include limiting the scope of the bill to safeguard against allowing table gambling, tax measures on "bingo parlors" and casinos on Native-American reservations.

Local House Representative Chris Blackshear says he particularly supports the new bill, because of the revenue it could generate for the state. The bill designates 75 percent would go to the General Fund Budget and 25 percent to the Education Budget.

"I think we're all in agreement no matter how we think we should get there, we need more money in the education budget and we need more money in the general fund budget," Blackshear says. "We have roads and infrastructure needs we need to find an answer for. We need to do something with our prisons and mental health, and on the flip side, education. The quality of education those young folks get in the classroom today truly dictates how well our community is going to be taken care of going forward. They are our future." 

However, both Rep. Blackshear and Sen. Dial say they're not completely signing off on the bill just yet. The process to pass a bill is long and can be complicated by opportunities for amendments and revisions. Something Blackshear says threw previous attempts to pass lottery legislation off track.

Right now, the legislators agree their main focus is finalizing the state budgets so session can be completed by late March.


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