Alabama Senate Hold Off Vote For Gaming

On Thursday, the Alabama Senate began discussing a bill to expand gaming in the state, but held off a vote until after a legislative break.

State senators were debating Sen. Del Marsh’s SB 214 that would introduce to Alabama a lottery, casinos and sports betting. Some lawmakers are in support of the five casino sites planned, while others, according to the Associated Press, want more gambling areas.

Marsh said that he would not request a vote until legislators return from the legislative break next week, the AP announced.

Lottery, casinos and sports betting

SB 214 will create a state lottery and authorise five casinos for table games, sports betting and slot machines to be offered. According to AP, four of the casinos would be built on established dog tracks, while the fifth site would be run by the Creek Indians Poarch Band in north Alabama.

If approved, the legislation would also allow the governor to negotiate with the Porch Band on a compact involving their three other sites that currently sell electronic bingo machines, the only federally recognised Native American tribe in the state.

According to AP, discussion on Thursday in the Senate revolved around where casinos will be. Marsh said he wanted to add up to two additional sites to the bill, but warned that it was impossible that a gambling bill that allowed many large casinos would be accepted by the electorate.

Requirements

In order for the bill to pass, it must be approved by a vote of three-fifths of each Alabama Legislature house, and then by a majority of people in a statewide referendum.

Without a state lottery, Alabama is only one of five states. A lottery in Alabama will raise from $194 million and $279 million annually for college scholarships, the Legislative Services Department estimated. It also estimated that, according to AP, casinos would raise $260 million to $393 million annually from the 20 percent tax on gaming revenues.

In 1999, the state last voted for a lottery and rejected the plan.

Some nearby states have legal sports betting already. On Nov. 1, Tennessee opened its all-mobile market and in the first two months it saw around $312 million wagered, one of the best starts for any state with legal sports betting. Mississippi has sports betting, but no mobile betting in its riverboat and land-based casinos.

In the Alabama Assembly, there was also a sports betting bill passed. Currently, HB 161 is in committee.

Governor involved in Debate on Gambling

According to al.com, in December, Gov. Kay Ivey’s Gambling Policy Research Group published a report that projected Alabama could collect between $510 million and $710 million from having a lottery, casinos, and sports betting. In February 2020, Ivey appointed the study group to gather information about expanded legal gambling in the state.

In a news report when the news was released, Ivey said: “The potential to act on gambling is an opportunity that cannot be accomplished solely by a governor or solely by the Legislature.

“It is incumbent on us to work together to provide the citizens of Alabama their opportunity to determine the future of gambling in Alabama. I continue to maintain the final say on gambling belongs to the people.”

According to al.com, the group discovered that gambling would operate in Alabama with the benefits outweighing the drawbacks and that a state authority would be required to supervise gaming.

In her State of the State address this month, Ivey discussed the study group’s work and said she looked forward to working with the legislature on putting the topic in front of voters.