MONTGOMERY, Alabama—Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley announced he will put pressure on Alabama legislators to revise a pending lottery bill so that sales of lottery tickets would be prohibited in the state’s Black Belt region, an economically disadvantaged, 18-county area of Alabama that has a high concentration of black and African-American residents.
Mr. Bentley made the comment yesterday during an appearance on the Yellowhammer Radio with Cliff Sims show, a syndicated radio program on the Yellowhammer News Radio Network, a north Alabama-based conservative, Christian, evangelical media powerhouse.
Mr. Bentley told host Cliff Sims that the bill, which would set up a statewide lottery, would be a “big-government tax on the poor.”
“It’s going to be the poor that are going to be buying, and they’re the ones that are going to be targeted by the government,” Mr. Bentley said. “It’s a tax that does not provide help to those it should help, and it will enlarge the size of government.”
He also cited “kitchen-table economics” and lack of disposable income of area residents as reasons to ban lottery sales.
“That is and has been historically the poorest part of our state. And any extra money those folk down there have they should be using to buy things for basic needs, like food, clothing, and healthcare, not gambling on lottery tickets.”
During the show, the governor also defended the decision he made late last year to close state offices that issue driver’s licenses in Black Belt counties, a move many local and national political analysts criticized as an attempt to suppress voting. Alabama law requires voters to show a state-issued photo ID to vote.
“My administration has and will always continue to make the best economic decisions for all Alabamians. And that was a purely economic decision. Those offices were just not that busy. So we just couldn’t keep them stay open and have state workers sitting on the dole, doing nothing.”
Mr. Sims asked the governor if his Christian faith influenced his push to deny lottery sales in the Black Belt. Mr. Bentley, a Baptist church deacon and Sunday school teacher, said it played only a minor part and cited biblical scripture as rationale.
“The Bible tells us we must defend the poor, the weak, and the fatherless, do justice to the afflicted and needy. And we must deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. A lottery breaks every commandment of our God, directly or indirectly.”
A lottery breaks every commandment of our God, directly or indirectly.
The host agreed with the second-term governor.
“And God willing we can let all that sinful lottery money just keep on going to Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and New Orleans, and keep Alabama Christian,” Mr. Sims said.
Alabama’s constitution forbids lotteries. Lottery approval would require support from three-fifths of both state legislative bodies—the House of Representatives and Senate—then by a majority of voters in a statewide referendum in November.
In 1999, Alabama voters rejected a lottery proposed by then-Governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat.
Willie Leroy Washington reports on the Deep South and is based in the beautiful, historic Black Belt city of Selma.