Alabama Governor Robert Bentley did not include gambling revenue in his fiscal plan as a way to deal with the states budget shortfall in a special session of the legislature.
Senator President Pro Tem, Del Marsh wanted lawmakers to put a measure on the ballot to let the citizens decide. He dropped his controversial Senate Bill 453 as the regular session expired, although the idea still has some bi-partisan support. The Mayor of Birmingham, the state’s largest city, wanted to see the bill passed, saying it could bring a casino and sports dome downtown.
Representative Jack Williams of Vestavia Hills said he wouldn’t bet on the bill passing muster, noting that it would it require two-thirds of all lawmakers to override the governor’s decision to not include it for consideration. Those numbers translate to 70 Congressmen and 24 Senators.
“Even if gambling were brought to the table in the special session, it doesn’t provide any assistance for budget issues dealing with the 2015-2016 budget cycle. So if gambling’s an answer for issues in the future in Alabama then that’s something I would expect to be dealt with in the 2016 legislative session.”
Some business people in the community expressed disbelief at the exclusion noting that the governor is in his second term and the people still don’t have a chance to vote on measures to allow a lottery and casino gambling in the state.
Thousands of people in depressed Greene County lost their jobs when Attorney General Luther Strange directed law enforcement officials to raid the VictoryLand bingo center in Shorter and seize machines and cash; causing the hotel, dog track, and casino to close. A small simulcast center is all that is left of the former jobs driver there. Recently a judge ruled against the forfeiture but did not rule on the legality of the machines. Macon County voters approved the use of electronic bingo machines by an overwhelming majority in 2003.
Instead of considering casino and lottery revenue, which is fervently opposed by religious leaders in the state, the governor is asking lawmakers to use settlement money from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill to make up shortfalls. He is also asking lawmakers to approve tax increases and to reduce state income tax deductions.