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Alabama Senate delays lottery vote amid divisions

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A divided Alabama Senate delayed a vote on lottery legislation Wednesday night as the bill’s sponsor feared he did not have enough votes to pass the measure.

Republican Sen. Jim McClendon of Springville asked to carry his bill over until another day as he faced the threat of a filibuster and an effort to change the bill to authorize casinos in the state. The lengthy debate exposed Senate divisions over gambling. Lawmakers will resume negotiations on the bill that could return to the Senate floor later this session.

“It was cutting too close,” McClendon told reporters Wednesday night. “If you lose the vote, it’s over, it’s gone. So, I did not want to take that risk today.”

The bill, if lawmakers and voters approve, would authorize a lottery where tickets could be sold at stores, kiosks and through a phone app. McClendon said he preferred passage of a lottery bill but signaled openness to including casinos.

“I want a lottery. The people in my district want a lottery. Ideally, I would have a simple straight forward lottery bill but if it requires something more complex than that in order to get a lottery bill, I will certainly entertain the thought,” McClendon said.

The Senate did approve a second bill that would set up the governing structure for a potential Alabama lottery and spell out how revenues would be divided. But the legislation is largely meaningless unless the proposed constitutional amendment authorizing the lottery is approved.

Senators earlier this session narrowly rejected a proposal by Republican Sen. Del Marsh to start a state lottery and allow up to 10 casinos in the state.

Marsh said Wednesday night that McClendon was “far short” of the votes he needed to break a filibuster on the lottery bill.

“In my opinion it’s going to be near impossible to get a vote on a straight lottery bill. I think you are going to have to have a comprehensive bill,” Marsh said.

Republican Sen. Greg Albritton argued the state needs a more comprehensive bill. “I would suggest that what we need look at is a means of controlling gaming, not expanding it,” Albritton said.

Alabama is one of five states without a state lottery. Alabama voters in 1999 rejected then-Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposed state lottery, but lawmakers in both parties say they believe voters are now more welcoming to the idea.

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