Alabama loses from lack of lottery

36 16 29 11 57, and most importantly 2. In order, these numbers represent Alabama Football’s Bowl Appearances, National Championships, SEC championships, Division tiles, All Americans, and finally Heisman winners. It is also the numbers of my Powerball ticket for tonight’s drawing. I thought there was nobody better to bet on than the Crimson Tide.

Powerball fever is sweeping the country as tonight’s drawing rises to $1.5 billion. As more news stories about the event began popping up, I decided on a whim that I would give it a shot. I was dreaming of paying my parents back for college and then maybe buying the Wendy’s 4 for $4 meal with the leftover money.

A woman working at the Shell Station on University looked at me like a complete fool when I asked if I could buy a ticket. I unfortunately became fascinated by the $2 game when I had already left my native lottery-friendly North Carolina and returned to Alabama. Alabama doesn’t offer the lottery, keeping company with our neighbor Mississippi (which I almost drove to after the Shell incident, then I really would have been a fool), Utah, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii.

State legislators cite religious reasons for not offering the lottery, and people who are most likely to play are the least able to afford it. Alabama Senator Arthur Orr was quoted as saying he was against the lottery because, “The poor spend a large part of their discretionary funds on the lottery, so the studies show,” and the lottery could then create an unnecessary financial burden on them.

However, with Alabama’s state budget in disarray, a lottery could bring in the needed funds to keep the government operating without raising taxes. Representative Craig Ford wrote in an op-ed for that stated, “A statewide lottery is a way to fill in the gaps without losing important programs, and it does so in a voluntary way.” Right now the state government is looking at having to close several rural hospitals and push the limits on overcrowded prisons if they can’t find a way to raise more state funds.

But for now, I was still trapped in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with no lottery sales in sight. I almost made the three-hour trek to Tennessee, until a friend who had just returned from their own journey told me of having to wait in a two-hour line to make his purchase at a state line gas station. The place was full of Alabamians chasing the dream of a worry-free tomorrow.

It seemed there was no way I was going to be able to buy a ticket myself, so I started to look for a partner in my gambling venture. The only two states that sell tickets online are Illinois and Georgia, and I began to appreciate the University’s majority out-of-state student ratio as I was making phone calls. Both states require you to make accounts to prove  you are a resident of the state, but Illinois only required a valid address instead of a social security number like Georgia. Recalling all the friends who mentioned a love for deep dish pizza and owning Blackhawks jerseys, I finally hunted down a Chicagoan who would help me in my quest for a Powerball ticket.

Ultimately her mom had to buy us the tickets, because we were stopped again when the website denied us for our IP address not being within Illinois borders. I was really regretting not just buying one at home before all of this trouble. I ended up having to buy two tickets and do a power play, which would double my winnings if the stars aligned in my favor, in order to hit the $5 online minimum.

As I watched the clock count down to 9:59, I started to wonder if I had just thrown away $5 and a fair amount of time in my hunt to play this game. But even though I knew the odds are so incredibly small, it was oddly thrilling to play. You’re gambling on an instantaneous American dream. You can finally do what you said you would in the popular icebreaker question, “what if you won the lottery?” You can’t help but begin to think, maybe there is a chance…

More importantly this quest taught me that if you want it enough, you’re going to make it happen. Alabama is missing this easy voluntary money that people are going to spend one way or another. With the state struggling to balance the budget, a lottery could help raise funds and provide key services that Alabama needs.

Currently, legislators on both sides of the aisle are working to propose a bill that would allow Alabamians to vote on whether the state should make a lottery. As interest has never been higher with this record Powerball drawing, I wouldn’t be surprised if residents who swear they would have won if they’d had the chance to play would vote in favor of the lottery. I think it could be the important funding source the state needs, and who knows? Maybe an Alabamian will be lucky enough to win it all like the Crimson Tide.

Meghan Dorn is a senior majoring in public relations and political science. Her column runs weekly.

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