580,000,000 reasons Alabama needs lottery
by Jack Mcneely
Dec 02, 2012 | 1506 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack Mcneely
Jack Mcneely
There was excitement at the Daily Mountain Eagle office Wednesday as several employees held Powerball tickets almost as firmly as a cherished ticket to Saturday’s SEC Championship game.

I had just returned from an afternoon jaunt to Tennessee to pick up our chances – albeit a 1 in 1.75 million chance – to bag the largest Powerball jackpot ever.

I could hear employees whispering, “What if?”

Our collective $190 gamble went bust, garnering only four Powerball numbers (06) among the 95 sets of hopes and dreams. Even worse, we matched only 25 of the 475 numbers randomly drawn for our first five numbers on our 95 tickets.

Of course, none of our sets of numbers matched the numbers drawn Wednesday night at Powerball headquarters in Tallahassee, Fla., 05-16-22-23-29, and 06.

Two winning tickets were purchased, however, one in Arizona and one in Missouri. At least two people will share the record Powerball prize which ballooned to nearly $580 million late Wednesday.

But I argue that there are many more winners around the country, all the folks that benefit from state-funded programs that receive earmarked funds from lottery sales. States either designate lottery revenue for earmarked programs or just dump the money into their respective general funds to offset slumping tax revenue.

Unfortunately, the State of Alabama is one of seven states in the nation that does not have a lottery system. Other non-lottery states include Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

And if the droves of automobiles with Alabama license plates parked at convenience stores off the first two I-65 exits in southern Tennessee were any indication, Alabama is losing out. I’m sure the scene was duplicated across state lines to our east in Georgia and to our south in Florida.

Alabama last put the lottery before voters in 1999. It was voted down by a narrow 54 percent. It is time to put this issue before the masses again.

I realize we are in the heart of the Bible belt. So is Georgia. So is Tennessee. States cannot govern morality. If someone wants to gamble, they will find a way. Here, they just call their bookie or visit the backroom slots. Local folks pocket cash hand over fist.

The state, meanwhile, asked its citizens in September for permission to dip into its “rainy day fund” to the tune of $437.4 million over the next three years to balance the budget and avoid major cuts to public services.

Our backs were against the wall then, much like the “fiscal cliff” facing every American effective Jan. 1, 2013, if Congress does not address the expiration of tax credits by the end of the year.

In September, I supported the state’s plea because I considered it a necessary evil. I will not support it again in three years if state lawmakers do not consider permanent fixes.

A state lottery system would give the state much-needed revenue and eliminate the need to rob Peter to pay Paul in the future.

Jack McNeely is Publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.