(AP)  The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee voted 6-2 Tuesday for a proposal to establish a state lottery and casinos at four existing dog tracks, gambling's first hurdle in the Alabama Legislature. 

Meanwhile, Circuit Judge William Shashy told lawyers during a hearing Tuesday that he wants to see what happens in other cases and the Legislature before deciding the request by VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor before making a decision on whether to return more than 1,600 gambling machines seized in a raid at the VictoryLand casino in 2013.  Shashy ruled in June that the state wrongly seized gambling machines and more than $260,000 in cash from VictoryLand during the raid. McGregor is in in court trying to get everything returned. However, the state attorney general's office is trying to block the release of the machines and cash.

There has long been a fine line between gambling, which is illegal in the state aside from Native American establishments, and bingo operations. However, with the current shortfall in our General Fund and the numbers of Alabamians that visit both legal and illegal gaming establishments, it seems like gambling might have been a feasible means of balancing the budget. Personally, I don't gamble much. I will buy a lottery ticket or two from neighboring states when I travel, though. Granted, I could take those few dollars and donate them to a school as could other Alabama residents, but if there was a system to allocate revenue generated by an alternative means to various recipient agencies, it would be better received and provide a more structured means of funding than simply seeking donations.

More than that though, I think being a coastal state with gaming operations would significantly increase our designation as a tourist destination, which would not only provide the state with more revenue from hospitality taxes but also increase the numbers of jobs available to residents in the state. What are your thoughts? Would gambling only perpetuate the cycle of poverty among those looking for a windfall to sweep them out of debt, or are those people gambling elsewhere anyway?