Alabamas dilemma: choosing between gambling or taxes to plug budget deficit(1)
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Three-fifths of state lawmakers would need to approve the constitutional amendment in order to place the proposal on a statewide ballot. If voters passed the measure, Alabama would levy a 13% tax on gross casino gambling revenue, which would go toward the general fund. An additional 1% tax would be split among the counties where the casinos are located. The bill also calls for a 4% tax on casino equipment vendors.
The gambling bill would also establish Alabama’s first-ever lottery to plug the budget gap. Alabama, one of six states without a lottery in the United States, is no stranger to such proposals over the years.
Back in 1998, Democrat Don Siegelman was elected governor largely on the promise of letting residents scratch lottery tickets to provide free in-state tuition to Alabama high school graduates – a model other southern states such as Georgia and South Carolina now have in place. Facing strong church opposition on moral grounds, residents ultimately rejected the lottery proposal the following year. The ill-fated plan later landed Siegelman 9club a six-and-a-half year prison sentence for corruption charges related to the sale of a state regulatory board seat in exchange for a $500,000 lottery campaign donation.
A recent Auburn University at Montgomery study found both a lottery and casino could generate a total of nearly $400m in annual revenue. According to Marsh, the expanded gambling could lead to $800m in economic development. With Alabama residents driving to other states to gamble, he says officials are missing a major opportunity to boost the state’s economy and solve the budget crisis.
Gamblers trying their luck on the Hot Shot slot machines, Harrahs Casino, Las Vegas. Lukewarmers have also been described as Luckwarmers because they want to gamble our future on the best case scenario.
Alabama could be heading for a little bit of Las Vegas. Photograph: Kumar Sriskandan/Alamy
Republican state senator Trip Pittman doesn’t buy into the potential benefits of the gambling plan. He plans to filibuster the legislation on the senate floor arguing that it won’t solve the state’s immediate budget needs. Pittman says lawmakers should instead consider alternatives like further streamlining of the state’s retirement costs, 9club capping healthcare spending, and revisiting the use of taxpayer incentives given to private-sector companies.