Alabama residents have been cautioned against getting their hopes up for the bill relating to casino and gaming expansion to pass. The bill would have allowed residents to vote on whether they would approve of a state-run lottery being established and the addition of more casino venues. This would include full-scale gambling facilities such as table games and slot machines. Unfortunately, Alabama lawmakers have hit a brick wall, with both chambers unwilling to let go of tension relating to underhanded tactics.
Last month, SB 319 was passed by the Alabama Senate with a 23-9 vote. However, the expansion bill package has been met with opposition and controversy in lower legislative chambers in the state. Earlier this month, house representatives held a fierce debate that saw tensions rising between House Democrats and Republicans. House Republicans accused the Democrats of attempting to make last-minute changes to the gaming and lottery measure. On the other hand, Democrats retaliated by condemning the lack of communication from Republicans when a lottery-only measure was introduced. Democrats maintain that they were not afforded the opportunity to have their voices heard and had no prior knowledge of the language contained in the bill before it reached the floor for discussion. Mac McCutcheon, House Speaker, shared that tensions were extremely high during this debate as a result of how hard everyone had been working. He concluded that almost every lawmaker present was upset by the way things had turned out.
Regarding the House republican’s decision to draft a lottery bill that did not involve the question of commercial gambling or involve more casino venues, McCutcheon stated that there was no ill will intended. He explained that there was no effort made to hide anything from the Democrats. The Republicans were attempting to get a bill onto the floor as soon as possible that would allow Alabamans an opportunity to vote on a state lottery at least.
SB 319 did not make it to the House roll call as the House did not feel that the measure had sufficient votes to progress.
Alabama does not currently have full-scale casino venues with table games and slot machines. The only gaming options available to residents are the three Class II casinos that are owned by the state’s sole federally recognized tribe, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Wind Creek Hospitality, the Tribe’s designated gaming unit, owns three casino/gaming venues in Wetumpka, Montgomery and Atmore. These venues have been allowed to provide electronic bingo gaming facilities and their related machines. While these machines might sound and look similar to traditional slot machines, electronic bingo machines differ in that the result of each spin is determined by the casino venue’s terminal network. Traditional slot machines, with random number generators, would require a Class III gaming expansion.
The majority of lawmakers in Alabama believe that it is time to allow the residents of the state to decide whether they want a true casino gambling experience or not. The last ballot vote held for anything gambling related took place in 1999 when residents rejected the establishment of a lottery. However, there have been several developments since this vote. Sports wagering, lotteries and commercial gambling have all become commonplace in the US. There are currently only five states that have not established a lottery, making Alabama one of five others.
Alabama state’s Democrats have shared that the actions taken by the Republicans have muddied the waters of the gaming discussion considerably. Democratic Representative, Pebblin Warren, stated that if lawmakers do not have the integrity to deal with gaming then it ought to be given up and the actions revealed during the debate serve as a testament to the fact that there is no integrity to be found in the chamber.
If Alabama hopes to realise its dream of having a state-run lottery and commercial gambling then the measure will need to reach residents during the election. Unfortunately, the chamber only has one session day left for this year’s session. McCutcheon admitted that the passage of this bill has now become very difficult and even impossible.