Alabama lawmakers adjourn session without final gambling vote | #elections | #alabama


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers ended the legislative session Thursday without approving a lottery, slot machines and video poker machines, continuing a 25-year stalemate on the issue of gambling.

Supporters were unable to break an impasse in the Alabama Senate after the measure failed by one vote earlier in the session. The Senate did not take the bill up again on the session’s final day, ending hopes of getting the issue before voters later this year.

“There was a lot of effort to try to make it work. I think the people want a chance to vote. I hear that everywhere I go,” Republican House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter said. The House had approved the bill.

Alabamians last voted on the issue of gambling in 1999, when voters rejected a lottery proposed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman. There have been multiple efforts since then for lottery bills, but the measures stalled amid debate over casinos and electronic gambling machines.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed said senators had approved a scaled-down bill that included a lottery and allowing dog tracks and other sites to have machines where players bet on replays of horse races. Senators were less receptive to proposals that included slot machines or video poker.

“It was something that there weren’t votes in the Senate to approve,” Reed said of the conference committee proposal. “So that’s where we are.”

The House had approved a sweeping bill that would have allowed a lottery, sports betting and up to 10 casinos with slot machines and table games. The state Senate scaled back the legislation. A conference committee proposed a compromise that would have authorized a lottery as well as slot machines at seven locations in the state. Representatives approved the measure, but it did not win approval in the Senate.

The House spent part of the day in a slow-down to allow last-minute discussions to see if something could win approval. Ledbetter said when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen “it was time to move on.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who expressed support for the bill in her State of the State address, told reporters that she was disappointed in the outcome.

“I wanted people to have a chance to vote on the issue.” the Republican governor said.

Asked if she would call a special session on the subject, Ivey suggested it would be pointless unless lawmakers can reach an agreement.

During debate on state budgets, members of the House took parting verbal shots at the Alabama Senate and opponents of the bill.

Republican Rep. Chris Blackshear, the sponsor of the legislation, said gambling would have provided more money for education, roads, and other needs.

“We had it as close as it’s been before. We had a chance,” Blackshear said of their effort.

Democratic Rep. Barbara Drummond said lottery tickets purchased by Alabamians in neighboring states are paying to help educate children there, while Alabama children receive no benefits.

“I’m frustrated today,” Drummond said. “The House stood up like it should, but it hit a wall upstairs. It’s time we stop playing these games of special interest and look out for the people who send us here.”


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