Lottery will brighten Alabama’s futureBy Kyle Simpson | 05/27/2015 5:24pm
With the state of Alabama facing a severe budget shortfall and a Republican state legislature that would probably rather praise ObamaCare than raise taxes even slightly, things are looking bad for Alabama’s state government. When our conservative Republican governor, who campaigned on “no new taxes”, is now begging the state legislature for a tax raise, the situation is probably pretty dire. The perfect way to fix our budget problems is to institute a state-run lottery.
Primarily, the lottery would allow our state to offer a scholarship program similar to Georgia’s celebrated HOPE scholarship, giving incentives and opportunities to high school students throughout the state. The HOPE scholarship allows talented and hardworking students to attend prestigious universities like Emory and Georgia Tech that many would not otherwise be able to afford. Georgia’s program is 100 percent funded by its state-run lottery, and there is no reason it would not work in Alabama. Alabama’s public school system unfortunately lags behind much of the country, and a strong public school system is an essential piece of a successful state.
Secondly, by instituting our own state lottery, we would retain the money that Alabamians are currently spending on lottery tickets in all of our border states, each of which benefit from Alabama not having its own lottery. Many opponents of the lottery claim it disproportionally makes money from the lower classes, which is true. However, many of the people who would participate in Alabama’s lottery already participate in lotteries in other states, so nothing would change. It may not seem like a lot, but Mississippi gambling interests have been caught giving campaign money to Alabama politicians that are conveniently opposed to instituting gambling in Alabama, so the benefit is obviously significant. Our border states do not want us to have a lottery, so that means it is probably in our interest to have one.
Currently, all of the gambling money in the state goes to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. With three casinos, a stake in the Mobile Greyhound Park, and lots of cash, this tribe wields tremendous political power in the state and is likely the main reason gambling is still illegal. Scared at the prospect of losing their monopoly, they have offered to temporarily pay for our budget shortfall next year in exchange for a guarantee against the legalization of gambling and a lottery. Again, this shows the potential benefit of this money going to the state to improve our schools, keep our parks open, and pay the pensions of hardworking Alabamians. Instead, it is currently going into the pockets of the casino monopoly.
Alabama has always tried to legislate its citizens’ morality. Regardless, a lottery in the state is one vice that has an enormous amount of benefit and not many drawbacks. Our citizens are already gambling by traveling to other states, so why not keep those dollars in our own state instead using them to send Georgians to University of Georgia? While we’re at it, we can fix the enormous tax vacuum in our state budget, and everyone can be happy. It’s a win-win situation.
Kyle Simpson is a junior majoring in biology. His column runs weekly.