There is a united effort to legalize Alabama sports betting shaping up, according to one of the state’s strongest proponents.
Sen. Greg Albritton told LSR last week he is awaiting a comprehensive gaming package from House leadership that would include Alabama sports betting. Albritton sponsored gambling bills the past two sessions, and Senate efforts stalled out in the House twice in five years.
Albritton said there is strong support, including from Gov. Kay Ivey, for AL sports betting, but it is impossible to predict 2024 legislative results. Because the Alabama Constitution prohibits gambling, there is an added hurdle of needing voter approval following legislative success.
“I hope [that it passes],” Albritton said. “I can guarantee this, though: if we get a good piece of legislation, it will be difficult. As we make one person happy, we’ll make three mad. It will be a difficult move.”
What would Alabama sports betting bill include?
Albritton said House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter’s gambling package is likely to mirror his own 2022 legislation, which itself was based on Sen. Del Marsh’s legislation that passed the Senate and a House Committee in 2021. It also legalizes full casino gaming at five locations, and in-person and online sports betting.
The package also would create a lottery, as Alabama is one of five states without one. Lawmakers also would establish the Alabama Education Lottery and Gambling Commission to oversee the industry.
The proposal would also allow Ivey to enter compact negotiations with the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians.
Alabama gaming mess
Albritton said legislators “created a mess over the past 40 years” regarding Alabama gaming. There have been approximately 15 attempts over the past 20 years to pass some form of gambling legislation, according to the Alabama Political Reporter.
“We have to get control of the industry,” Albritton said. “We have to get blanket regulation to handle the industry. We want to cap it and stop the illicit growth and proliferation of illegal sites, not just on the ground, but online.”
Additionally, Albritton said all forms of legal gaming in neighboring states hurt Alabama. That includes sports betting in states like Mississippi and Tennessee. The state legalized daily fantasy sports in 2019.
Alabama House gaming push
Following Albritton’s Senate push in 2022, he looked to attempt one again this year. However, House leadership told him to wait until next year because of more than 30 new representatives.
With next year in sight, Ledbetter is taking the lead. With Ledbetter taking a similar approach to regulating the industry, Albritton is hopeful the legislation now stands a chance.
“I’ll be honest with you and say that I simply had no idea just how widespread of a problem we have,” Ledbetter told the Alabama Political Reporter. “We don’t have hundreds of illegal gambling operations. We probably have more than a thousand.”
Who is to blame for gambling bill failures?
Albritton, a Republican, said past failures are not because of the oft-blamed religious Baptist right.
He believes it is the lobbyists representing businesses in the state, fearing the industry might bring new powerbrokers into Alabama.
Albritton also said past House leadership was unwilling to move gambling legislation and has taken “every opportunity to blast them for their inability.” Ledbetter’s support is a signal there is change, he said.
Alabama sports betting potential
Ivey created a Study Group on Gambling Policy in 2020.
The study concluded Alabama could generate up to $800 million a year by legalizing casinos and sports betting and starting a lottery. Sports betting on its own could contribute up to $10 million annually, according to the study.
Following 2022’s gambling legislative failure, Ivey held a press conference expressing her disappointment.