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Could a state lottery save Alabama?

Mon 15 Aug 2016, By Dean Cromwell
Could a state lottery save Alabama?

Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama recently put out a video message calling for a Special Session of the Alabama Legislature. It seems that the state is facing a severe funding crisis. Unable to provide residents with basic services, he believes that the answer lies in creating a state lottery which would generate $225 million annually.

This is a significant proposal when you consider that playing the multi-state lotteries such as the US Powerball or MegaMillions is outlawed in Alabama.

Residents who wish to play lottery games such the US Powerball have to travel to other states to get their tickets. That means a significant amount of money leaves the state every month. Many would argue that this money could be put to better use within the state of Alabama. The state has already tried to solve its budget issues by reducing wasteful spending, but this hasn’t been effective.

Others argue that this move is merely part of the Governor’s attempt to distract residents from the scandal of his relationship with a top aide. He has been threatened with impeachment so it’s conceivable that proposing a change to the legislation could re-focus attention elsewhere. Critics of the proposal argue that the idea of introducing a lottery game simply won’t work.

This is not the first time a state lottery has been proposed in Alabama. In 1999, Alabama voters rejected the Governor Donald Siegelman’s appeal for a lottery. His argument at the time was that the revenue a lottery could generate was vital to improve the state’s lagging schools. But only 46% supported the idea. Would the figures of those in favour of a state lottery have changed enough since then?

Lawmakers must approve the amendment by the 24th of August if it is to appear in the November ballot later this year. The outcome of the vote could impact the neighbouring state of Mississippi which doesn’t have a lottery either. Alabama and Mississippi are two of six states that don’t have a state lottery or allow their residents to participate in multi-state lotteries such as the US Powerball and Mega Millions. Residents in Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah complete the list.

It remains to be seen whether Governor Bentley will win this time round. In the meantime, residents of Alabama can play the biggest international lotteries through an online ticket concierge service. Even European lotteries such as the EuroMillions and EuroJackpot are available on these websites. With no laws forbidding non-residents from winning and claiming the lottery jackpot, lottery lovers all over the world are playing the lotto online.

Buying your US Powerball tickets online is just as easy as popping into your local retailer to get your physical tickets. You could compare it to ordering a pizza or your monthly groceries from your laptop. You select which lottery you want to enter, fil in your lotto numbers and pay for your ticket using your credit card. Then agents from the local office go out and purchase the physical tickets from registered retailers.

All you have to do is wait by your inbox for an email confirming your purchase. In some cases you may even receive a scanned copy of your physical lottery ticket. You can get the lottery results sent to you via email too. Should you win, the agent claims the prize on our behalf and the winnings are credited to your account. From there you can withdraw the money to your own bank account, or leave use it to buy more lottery tickets. It’s incredibly simple and takes all the hassle out of playing the lottery.

Even though residents of Alabama could get their lottery tickets online, it doesn’t answer the question of whether introducing a state lottery would really solve their budget problem. Alabama is currently dealing with debt over $60 billion. Just how much of the money raised from the lottery would go towards paying off that debt and improving the lives of citizens.

Governor Bentley hasn’t provided much detail on how the $225 million raised from ticket sales would be distributed. All he has said is that the money would be spent on services for children, the mentally ill, law enforcement and ‘those in the most need’. Each lottery distributes the money it raises in a different way. Some of the money is spent on administering the lottery, a portion is allocated to prizes and the remainder is made available to state services.

Alabama has a big decision to make and no doubt there will be many who feel strongly about the idea of introducing a state lottery. We’ll have to wait and see what the public decides. In the meantime, those in Alabama who can afford to play the lottery, and enjoy the thrill of playing for a big jackpot will have to get their tickets elsewhere. Introducing a state lottery could change that, and it could help Alabama get back on its feet.