The explanation why Alabama's gambling invoice stinks


The gambling question is a carousel that never seems to leave Alabama. Every few years we wrestle with a game suggestion until we're all sweaty and exhausted, but we never fix it. We'll just call it a tie, then return to the carousel and hold our breath until we have recovered enough to do it again.

Senator Dell Marsh (R-Anniston) proposed a gambling bill pretending to take us off the carousel and give us a large sack of cash. Pretty tempting, isn't it?

He even dangled the carrot of improved broadband infrastructure for the state to make us imagine how magical it all will be when multiple casinos are open and start collecting and pumping out money to meet all of our needs.

You guys know how much I want to fix the broadband problem. I've been moaning about that on a loop for a long time. In fact, I'm tired of hearing myself talk about it.

But warning sirens boom all over this bill, and wisdom demands that we heed them.

For many Christians in Alabama, the issue of gambling is a moral one, and no amount of public good raised with the proceeds could offset the vulnerability of the poor to fill public coffers. For them, that argument is over before it begins. You are a tough no.

For others, the analysis is more nuanced and takes into account the proposed mechanism to decide whether this calculation is net negative or net positive. There are plenty of potholes in SB-214 for this Conservative tribe.

Let the reader understand: this is not just a lottery bill. Marsh and Company have decided to go broke here and open casinos all over our state. The proposed websites include certain facilities that already offer forms of legal gaming, such as the existing dog tracks. You know, the ones you've seen on the news from time to time for repeatedly stepping over the line and dipping their toes into what are arguably illegal forms of gambling.

So it essentially rewards companies that weren't exactly model citizens with a plum chance.

This bill sets the table for cronyism at a level this state has never seen before. And cronyism doesn't even hide in a back room, embarrassed. It sits on the porch and smiles and waves to us.

As a free market conservative, I am itchy about the state picking winners and losers – in any context – anywhere. With the creation of the Alabama Gaming Commission, Marsh's bill creates a center of political power of frightening proportions.

And then there is the question of aesthetics and culture. Full disclosure here: I'm not a casino guy. It's just not my scene. And not really for moral reasons. I find the practice just stupid and the attitude good, sticky.

I hate buffets too. Start those anti-elitist reader emails.

One of the proposed locations for a new Poarch Creek play facility is in DeKalb or Jackson counties. I know a little about this area as a born and raised girl from DeKalb County. What you need to know about DeKalb County is that you cannot swing a dead cat without punching a Baptist minister in the head. Also, this place was bone dry until a few years ago.

They are not casino-friendly. Now Jackson County was always our faster cousin, so maybe they could find a place for it that the locals would tolerate. But where a casino physically sits isn't the only problem.

Can you imagine the flashy billboards and saturation of advertising that will plague the streets of Alabama when all of the proposed facilities are opened? It will embarrass Alexander Shunnurah.

So you can speak out against this bill because, on moral grounds, you are thumbs down at all games. You can oppose this because it rewards certain counties with a golden ticket for tourism revenue and leaves your ticket in the cold. You can object to this because you don't want people to visit our state and experience an atmosphere like "Vegas with Pines".

There's no shortage of reasons to kill that bill. Just choose your favorite and vote no.

Dana Hall McCain writes about faith, politics and culture for You can follow her on Twitter @dhmccain.