As more and more states welcome the gambling industry to their jurisdictions, Alabama state has recently been given another attempt at receiving the go-ahead to establish a state lottery and expand on casino gaming by a bipartisan revival. The measure will go to Alabama’s House chamber on the last day of the session to be discussed and voted on.
Earlier this month, SB 319 was advanced by the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee after a public hearing that lasted about an hour. This same bill was approved by the Senate several weeks prior to this event. As it stands, Alabama state is just one of five in the US that has yet to establish a lottery. The other four states that still do not have lotteries are Utah, Alaska, Nevada and Hawaii. The bill, SB 319, would allow Alabama state to provide a lottery and legalize a total of nine full-scale gaming venues. These casinos would offer residents table games, a selection of slot machines and even sports betting.
Industry analysts have shared the passing of the bill could lead to the state seeing more than $710 million more in state taxes each year. These funds could be used to fund programs such as education, health care, the expansion of internet access and several other key projects to improve the lives of residents. If the house approves the bill, the measure will still need to be approved by Alabama’s residents via a public referendum. This is likely to take place in November next year and could change the state’s constitution.
According to attendees, the hearing held by the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee was dominated by those who opposed the bill. However, the opposition is far more complex than people finding gambling to be immoral or distasteful. Representatives from communities that rely on small gaming operations, such as those with bingo halls, attended the hearing and made their cases.
Mayor of Forkville in Greene County, Charlie McAlpine, was also present and shared that he believes the whole economic structure in his county would be destroyed by the gambling expansion being proposed. Greene Country is home to a greyhound track that was selected by lawmakers, and included in the bill, as a potential venue for one of the new commercial casinos. The other venues mentioned in the bill are the three other dog tracks in Macon Country, Mobile and Birmingham. In addition to these locations, the bill has included a bingo hall in Dothan. The location of the sixth venue could be in Jackson Country, northeast Alabama, or DeKalb County. The final decision regarding this last venue will be determined by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the only federally recognized tribe in the state.
If the bill passes and commercial gaming is legalized, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would be allowed to provide Class III gaming options at it’s on-reservation gaming venue. In addition to the passage of the bill, this expansion relied heavily on Governor Kay Ivey’s ability to negotiate a reasonable gaming compact with tribal leaders.
The bill would then allow lawmakers to begin the process of establishing an Alabama Gaming Commission that will be tasked with overseeing the lottery, sports betting, casinos and bingo. The Gaming Commission would serve as the official regulator of all gambling activities in the state, allowing the act of illegal gambling to be deemed a felony instead of a misdemeanour.
Senator Del Marsh, the Senate’s proponent of the measure, shared that Alabama’s residents are currently forced to drive out of state to buy lottery tickets or participate in gambling activities. This means that neighbouring states are collecting Alabamians money and making profits off of them that should be coming back to the state to fund a host of social programs. He concluded by saying that the revenue that is flowing out of the state now could be used to fund several projects that would improve the lives of everyone who lives in Alabama.