More important than gambling: Talking about the lottery
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jul 08, 2009 | 2023 views |  2 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
State Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Ron Sparks announced late last week that at least part of his campaign would focus on taxing the gambling industry and creating a state lottery. His plan, the logic goes, would provide tax relief and college scholarships.

Cue the arguments. They're about to begin.

Even though Alabamians rejected a lottery-for-scholarships plan 10 years ago, every time the cost of college has gone up — which it does seemingly every year — someone floats the idea again. We were lukewarm about such a proposal a decade ago; we remain lukewarm today.

When former Gov. Don Siegelman proposed his plan in 1999, it struck many as a way to avoid difficult decisions on tax reform and revenue raising. However, it was a well thought-out idea that the opposition beat to death with "smoke-filled room" commercials suggesting money raised through the lottery would be wasted.

Still, the proposal was not unlike the Georgia state lottery, which on the whole has to be judged as a success — though it's not a cure-all for that state's education-funding problems.

Sparks' call for a lottery that would fund scholarships for high school graduates with a "C" or better average seems less of a sure thing. To some, it may seem more of a political ploy to get attention than a practical plan to help middle-class Alabama families finance their children's college education.

Alabamians should wait for more in-depth details on Sparks' proposal until they pass judgment.

However, candidate Sparks makes a good point when he says the state should receive more revenue from the gambling industry.

Today, thousands of untaxed electronic gambling machines operate in seven Alabama counties. All it takes to change this is a state law. Sparks is right to raise the issue, and whoever is elected governor should push such a bill.

This page is also pleased to see a candidate announce that he will negotiate an agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians to bring in revenue from those sources. Such an agreement does not necessarily mean that new types of gambling would be allowed. But to simply ignore the Indian casinos has gotten this state nowhere.

The bigger issue isn't merely the lottery itself. As this page has said in the past, there are more important issues than gambling facing Alabama. Tax reform, constitutional reform, public safety, economic recovery and a host of other matters should take priority over lotteries and bingo.

We wait to hear what candidate Sparks, and the others lining up as candidates, has to say about these.
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More important than gambling: Talking about the lottery by The Anniston Star Editorial Board

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