Many Alabamians had their dreams of hitting the jackpot dashed Tuesday after the State Senate rejected a proposed gambling bill that would have allowed for a statewide lottery and casino expansion.
Even though Senate Bill 214 received the majority of available votes, 19-13, it needed at least 21 to pass. Among those who dissented was Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Red Hill) who said the bill may have been doomed from the start.
“That’s the way I told them it would go down. If you put [the lottery and casino] together, it's not going to pass,” Scofield told The Reporter. “The lottery portion of the bill wasn’t an issue; it was the casino portion of the bill that was a huge issue. That is what caused the bill to fail.”
Based on feedback and polling information he received, Scofield said it was clear his constituents wanted a vote on the lottery, but few expressed any interest in casinos.
“I’ve heard loud and clear from my constituents that they want to vote on a lottery. Very few have expressed any interest in voting for casino gaming,” he said. “The casino gaming part of the legislation was very problematic and clouded the issue.”
Before the vote, Scofield said he was “inundated” with calls from his constituents asking him to vote against casinos. After the vote, he said the calls have been mainly from people asking why he voted against the lottery. However, once he explains how the two were tied together, he said most people have understood his decision to reject the bill.
“My constituents — I’ve heard loud and clear they want a vote on the lottery, and I support that 100%. And I will vote to allow them to vote on a lottery … a good, clean lottery [bill] that when they go to the polls to cast their vote, they know exactly what they are voting for and where exactly that money is going to go.”
Scofield said he had encouraged the drafters of the bill to separate the lottery issue from casinos before it was brought to a vote. Since the bill failed, at least six lottery-only bills have been filed, he said.
“At the end of the day, I strongly believe in the right of my constituents to vote on something," Scofield told The Reporter. But my job is to get what they are voting on as perfect as it can be. They can’t amend it. They can’t change it. When it gets to the ballot box, it is what it is.”
Sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), the original Senate Bill 214 proposed adding an amendment to the state constitution to establish a statewide education lottery, five new casinos and commissions to oversee them.
Four of the casinos would have been located at the greyhound tracks in Alabama, which includes the Birmingham Race Course, VictoryLand in Macon County, Greentrack in Greene County, and the Mobile Greyhound park.
A fifth casino operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would have been built in either Jackson of DeKalb County. Two more casino locations were later added: one in Houston County and one in Lowndes County.