Siegelman: Commercial interests will try to derail gambling expansion in Alabama

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman warned Alabama citizens to keep an eye on commercial interests that may try to curtail the expansion of gambling in the state in an interview with WDHN.

Last Friday, a study group by Gov. Kay Ivey recommended the use of gambling Alabama, saying that the benefits outweigh the costs. In total, Alabama could rake in up $710 million dollars per year from lotteries, casino gambling, and sports betting.

You can read Siegelman’s full interview below or watch it in the video above.

Joining me today is former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to talk about some of the implications of the new gambling findings by Governor Kay Ivey. Study group. Hello Mr. Siegelman, how are you? 

Oh, I’m doing well. Thank you. 

Now to start us off I just want to ask you how you think Governor Ivey has handled the gaming situation. 

Well, I certainly commend her for her wisdom in establishing this. Uh, This body, this study group there made up of extremely bright and capable people who have spent a great deal of time looking at this issue. So I also want to say that her message to the people and reporting the study group’s recommendation, not their recommendation, but their conclusion was also wise in that she said that the decision is left to the people of Alabama, and, of course, any implementation of any kind of gaming in Alabama will have to be approved by a vote of the people. 

Now by holding off on gambling for so long, what has Alabama lost out on? 

Well, you know Alabama and Dothan certainly knows this ’cause the area in the Wiregrass is impacted by both Florida and Georgia, and of course, all corners of the state have gaming all around them, and the state of Alabama has had over 30 years of basically contributing to the education in of kids in Georgia and Tennessee and to road building and infrastructure in Mississippi. So we have paid an economic price for, I think in my opinion, for not implementing some form of (gambling) earlier. 

Now, what would an expansion mean for rural areas like our Wiregrass counties? Especially with country crossing here in Dover. 

I’m sorry I didn’t hear the question. 

I was just wondering how would the situation and expansion affect our local counties, especially with Country Crossing in our area. 

How how would gaming impact the local economy?

Yes, Sir. 

Oh well, I think, you know, if you look at anybody that has been to an area of the country — either you know Biloxi, Mississippi or Philadelphia, or you know Las Vegas — if you’ve been to any place that has gaming, you can see that there is an industry built around that which includes hotels, restaurants, all kinds of service industries, you know, laundries and cleaning crews and people who, you know, work at the casino itself. 

So you know, it would create thousands of jobs in different parts of the state. And I think that, you know, again, there are parts of the state that have paid an extreme economic price, and that would include the Wiregrass and Mobile-Baldwin County and north Alabama and Birmingham, and of course the Black Belt from Montgomery and Selma. All of those areas have been impacted by gaming, which goes on around the state but outside of the state’s boundaries. 

Now, why do you think the attitude towards gambling has shifted? 

Well, I’m not sure that it is shifted a little bit more as we have educated ourselves, basically because of what’s gone going on in all of our contiguous states, states all around us. 

And I think that it the desire for a lottery has been here for a long time. I think that if we had a fair and level playing field when I was governor, we would have been able to implement that, but you know, there were there was $20 million laundered in from Mississippi gambling casinos to defeat the lottery proposal here in Alabama. So we were we were battling not only the people in Alabama who were opposed to the lottery, but we were battling the gaming interest.

And of course, when this measure, whatever comes from the legislature to the people to be approved in a constitutional amendment, we will have to lookout for, you know, the gaming interest in neighboring states who will want to prevent us from having any form of competition with what’s going on in their states so you know the people of Alabama need to know that this is not an issue that’s just going to be decided by voters.

There’s going to be a lot of money coming in from gaming interests, whether it’s the Poarch Creek Indians, or the casinos, the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi, but there will be a lot of people who will be opposed. A lot of financial interests that will be opposed to whatever we decide to do in Alabama. 

Well, thank you very much Mr. Siegelman for joining us today. We hope you have a good evening. 

Hey, thank you and Merry Christmas to all.

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