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Why Alabama does not have a lottery?

Alabama is one of only a handful of states in the U.S. that does not have a state-sponsored lottery. This has been the case for many years, despite numerous attempts by lawmakers to establish a lottery in the state. Here we’ll explore the reasons why Alabama still does not have a lottery system and the debates surrounding the issue.

The History of Lottery Proposals in Alabama

There have been over 30 attempts made by the Alabama legislature over the past few decades to get a lottery bill passed. The issue has been hotly debated, with proponents touting the potential benefits of a state lottery, such as generating revenue for education and college scholarships, while opponents argue it willexploit the poor and encourage gambling problems.

One of the first major pushes for a lottery came in 1999 when former governor Don Siegelman campaigned heavily on establishing a lottery to fund education in the state. A proposed constitutional amendment to create a lottery was put to a statewide vote in 1999, but it failed by a narrow margin, with 54% voting against it.

Another high profile attempt came in 2010 when then-governor Bob Riley called a special session of the legislature to debate passing a lottery bill, which he estimated could generate over $150 million annually for the state. However, the bill failed to advance out of committee. A 2016 bill sponsored by the newly formed Alabama Lottery Study Commission also failed to make progress.

Most recently in 2019, a lottery bill proposed by Republican state senator Jim McClendon easily cleared the Alabama Senate but stalled in the House, falling short of the 3/5ths majority needed for a constitutional amendment. Efforts since then have failed to gain traction.

Key Reasons Alabama Has Rejected Lottery Proposals

Looking at the history of failed attempts, there are a few primary reasons that help explain why Alabama has never approved a state-sponsored lottery:

  • Opposition from social conservatives – Much of the resistance has come from socially conservative Republicans and church groups who view lotteries as a form of gambling that can breed addiction and cause social ills. Some equate lotteries to a tax on the poor. Conservative groups have helped mobilize voters against past lottery proposals.
  • Rural-urban divides – There is a geographical split in Alabama when it comes to lottery support, with more urban areas generally in favor and rural counties opposed. This rural-urban divide was evident in the 1999 vote. It has made building widespread consensus difficult.
  • Disagreement over use of revenue – There have been disputes over how lottery revenue should be spent, with competing interests like education funding and the state’s general fund. Deciding how proceeds get allocated would likely require complex negotiations.
  • Concerns over ethics and corruption – Some in Alabama fear a state-run lottery could invite unethical activity or government corruption. Memories of a previous federal bribery conviction of an Alabama lottery commissioner from the 1980s contributes to skepticism.
  • Satisfaction with status quo – For some state lawmakers, there is little urgency to establish a lottery, as they are satisfied with Alabama’s existing tax structure and revenue streams. The state has maintained balanced budgets without lottery funds.

These factors have combined to make it an uphill climb for any lottery bill to succeed in the Alabama legislature and across the state. Supporters have not yet managed to overcome the ideological and political divides.

The Debate Between Lottery Supporters and Opponents in Alabama

The debate around whether Alabama should implement a state lottery has stirred passionate arguments on both sides over many years. Here is a look at the key points made by supporters and opponents of a lottery in Alabama:

Arguments from Lottery Supporters

  • A lottery would generate hundreds of millions in new revenue annually that could help fund key priorities like education, college scholarships, and pre-K programs, without raising taxes.
  • Alabama dollars are flowing out of state to play lotteries in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. A home state lottery would keep more money in Alabama.
  • Polls consistently show a majority of Alabamians support passing a lottery. Voters should have the right to decide the issue for themselves.
  • Lotteries are an entertainment product that citizens should have the freedom to choose to play responsibly, just like other forms of gaming entertainment.
  • Many students travel out of state for college and take their talents with them. Lottery funded scholarships would provide more incentive to attend Alabama colleges.

Arguments from Lottery Opponents

  • Lotteries amount to a regressive tax on the poor who disproportionately buy tickets hoping to win big, but often lose. It’s exploitative.
  • State-sponsored lotteries promote and enable addictive gambling behavior that can be harmful to families and communities.
  • There is never enough lottery revenue to meaningfully fund long-term education needs or other programs. It’s an unsustainable funding source.
  • Lottery revenue forecasts are frequently overblown. Earmarking funds leads to cuts in other budget areas.
  • Once established, lotteries foster an environment of expanding gambling, like casinos and sports betting, that can increase social costs.

This debate has played out for years across Alabama without resolution. The arguments and political calculations on both sides will continue to determine whether Alabama joins the majority of states with lotteries in the future.

Where Do Alabamians Currently Play Lotteries?

With no in-state option, many residents of Alabama cross state lines or go online to play lottery games. The most common places Alabamians currently play lotteries are:

Nearby states

  • Georgia – the Georgia Lottery is hugely popular with Alabamians. Major lottery ticket vendors are located right across the state border along I-20 and I-85. The Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots are major draws.
  • Florida – the Florida Lottery also attracts Alabama residents, especially in the southern parts of the state closer to the Florida panhandle. Popular scratch-off tickets are a big attraction.
  • Tennessee – areas of north Alabama like Huntsville and Florence see Alabamians crossing over to play Tennessee lottery games. Tickets are readily available in border counties.
  • Mississippi – the Mississippi Lottery has tapped into southeastern Alabama markets since launching in 2019. Billboards and vendors target Alabama traffic.

Online lottery websites, apps and subscription services

In the digital age, Alabamians don’t have to drive out of state to play lotteries. Various online lottery services allow residents to buy tickets for other U.S. or international lottery draws. Some popular options include:

  • Jackpocket – app to play state lotteries
  • TheLotter – online international lottery ticket service
  • LottoSend – subscription lottery service

While physically purchasing tickets across state lines is illegal in Alabama, state law does not clearly prohibit these online lottery services. Their legal status remains somewhat gray area. Regardless, many Alabamians utilize these digital convenience options to access lottery games.

What Happens to Lottery Revenue from Alabama Residents?

Alabama’s lack of a lottery means the state government receives zero revenue or benefits from the millions of dollars spent annually on lottery games by Alabama residents. So where does the lottery revenue generated from Alabamians end up?

Surrounding State Budgets

The biggest beneficiaries are the budgets of Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi. Tens of millions in lottery ticket sales and tax revenue from Alabamians helps support the education and other programs funded by those states’ lotteries. The Georgia lottery, for instance, collected nearly $8 million from Alabama residents in 2019.

Prize Winners

Some lucky Alabama residents who play out of state lotteries also end up winning prizes, both small and large. Over the years, there have been several major jackpot winners from Alabama. In 2021, a Montgomery County resident won a $732 million Powerball prize from purchasing a ticket in Florida.

Online Lottery Companies

When Alabamians use online lottery ticket services, a portion of the revenue goes to the companies facilitating the games. So some dollars are captured by private online lottery businesses instead of state coffers.

Without an in-state option, Alabama misses out on anywhere from $250-$500 million or more in potential annual lottery revenue according to various estimates. Where this money could go in Alabama remains a central debate in the ongoing lottery discussion.

Potential Economic Impacts of an Alabama Lottery

If Alabama were to establish a lottery, it would certainly produce economic impacts and shifts throughout the state. Some potential effects include:

  • Hundreds of millions in new tax revenue for state priorities like education, infrastructure, etc.
  • Reduced money and lottery sales leaving the state for surrounding lotteries
  • Hundreds of new jobs at lottery retailers, vendors, advertising firms, and within the state lottery agency
  • New convenience and entertainment options for consumers in the form of games like Powerball and scratch-offs
  • Potential crowding out of existing local entertainment spending as dollars shift to lotteries
  • Unknown social costs related to problem gambling and addiction issues

Projecting the exact economic impacts is difficult given the uncertainty around factors like how many new players would enter the market versus shifting existing out-of-state spending to an Alabama lottery. A cost-benefit analysis would be needed to weigh the pros and cons of a new revenue stream.

Public Opinion of an Alabama Lottery

Public opinion polling over the years has consistently shown a majority of Alabama residents are in favor of establishing a state lottery, despite its repeated failure in votes and in the legislature. Some key poll findings include:

  • A 2022 Alabama Daily News poll found 72% of Alabamians support passing a lottery bill.
  • A 2016 poll showed 63% of respondents supporting a lottery, with 50% playing lottery games out of state.
  • Older polls also showed majority support – an Alabama Education Association poll in 2010 showed 66% approval for a lottery.

Support appears to cross party lines, with both Democrats and Republicans largely supportive of a lottery, though conservative Republicans provide the bulk of opposition. Demographic breakdowns generally show majority support across ethnic groups, age groups, and income levels as well.

Despite consistent public approval, there has not been enough momentum to get a lottery legalized in Alabama. However, growing public sentiment improves chances that a lottery could eventually succeed in the future.

When Could Alabama Pass a Lottery?

There is always a chance that renewed support or shifting political calculations could see a lottery approved in Alabama. Some potential scenarios where Alabama may establish a lottery within the next 5-10 years:

  • A popular governor makes it part of their agenda and invests political capital to get it passed.
  • Grassroots campaigns help build overwhelming public pressure on legislators.
  • Changing demographics and values reduce opposition over time.
  • Neighboring states continue expanding gaming, pressuring Alabama to follow.
  • A budget crisis creates urgency to find new revenue sources like a lottery.

However, it equally remains a possibility that resistance holds up and Alabama goes another decade or longer without approving a state-run lottery. Overcoming hurdles like conservative opposition and rural-urban divides remains challenging math for lottery advocates.

As other forms of gaming like casinos and sports betting grow in acceptance, that may influence attitudes, but a lottery in Alabama still faces an uphill path for now. Ongoing revenue losses to neighboring states could increase pressure for action.


After years of repeated rejections, Alabama currently remains one of a dwindling number of U.S. states without a lottery. Supporters continue advocating that it’s an overdue way to raise revenues for education and other programs without raising taxes. However, opposition rooted in social conservatism and rural-urban divides continues to halt any meaningful progress despite consistent public approval. Alabama’s status quo without a lottery persists for now, but shifting attitudes and demographics leave the door cracked open for a change in the future.