Art Parker headshot

Within the last month Governor Kay Ivey said, “This is a situation where every other state around us has already increased theirs. It’s been 26 years since Alabama’s made any adjustment. And the people of Alabama are smart enough to know that roads are essential to their safety and also to growing the economy and attracting jobs.”

Our Governor was referencing the importance of increasing the gas tax. More mandatory, conficatory revenue for the government, that will impact all people. The tax itself doesn’t bother me as much as Ivey using the excuse that all the states around us around doing it.

Really? We should do something because they do? Huh.

Mississippi now has a lottery, Alabama is the only state in the deep-south not to have a lottery. In other words, we are surrounded.

Did you hear that governor? Based upon your logic to boost a gas tax we should have a lottery.

When it comes to a lottery being surrounded is not good. I recall the recent $1.6 Billion Mega Millions lottery, of which approximately $700 million is retained by government entities to pay bills. A friend of mine who was dashing to the Georgia line twice per week to buy tickets told me the number of cars with Alabama tags stopping to buy tickets in Georgia was beyond belief. I do not know but if I made illegal wagers I would bet heavily that millions upon millions of Alabama dollars were expended for lottery tickets in the Mega Millions frenzy. Since Alabama does not have a lottery, and hence, does not participate in the interstate lottery offerings our state does not share in the massive government haul.

We are helping other states while we hurt ourselves. That’s not smart especially since we cannot pass laws to prohibit Alabamians from buying lottery tickets in other states. We can’t stop them and we get nothing. That’s it.

There is no doubt that a part of the religious community is staunchly opposed to a lottery and gambling. Let’s take a look at the ten most religious states in America (based upon a variety of factors) according to Wikipedia. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota and West Virginia. It is interesting to note that Alabama is the only one of those States without a lottery. Have we prospered while other religious states have faltered? No.

We’ve had pari-mutuel wagering for forty years and still do. For quite some time the Poarch Creek Indians (PCI) have operated casinos in Alabama, two of which are in the river region, and are protected by Federal law. I promise you PCI is not going anywhere, and they are not paying Alabama taxes either. We have other casinos that I believe operate legally, even though some disagree. I’m talking about Victoryland and the Birmingham Race Course (which also offers pari-mutuel wagering).

Mississippi has legalized sports betting and several other states in the South are moving in that direction. Some say we do not have sports betting either. Believe me, we have more of that than anyone can imagine and its all illegal, which creates no tax dollars.

This is what I know. We have been gambling forever and it will not stop. It’s just like people drinking alcohol. We tried to stop that once and all it did was cost us tax revenue and create a lucrative business for criminals. We also learned that people are not going to quit doing what they wish to do. Instead of using government to tell someone they can’t do something we need government to regulate. If the people don’t mind being taxed to drink, smoke and gamble then we should regulate those activities for their protection and for revenue enhancement (those last two words I learned from George Wallace). I promise that just telling the people NO or YOU CAN’T will not stop them.

Now is the time to start pounding on the recently elected members of the legislature. It is time to quit playing games with gambling. Our infrastructure needs are tremendous. Our Medicaid agency is in desperate need of money. We have tremendous challenges in our corrections system. We need a much larger budget for the highway patrol so that more troopers can be on the road, for OUR protection. The list goes on and on.

If you are opposed to more income taxes like I am then the next best way to raise revenue is with voluntary taxation. Legalizing gambling and regulating it will create tremendous voluntary taxation to solve our state’s financial woes.

Managing Editor