Alabama Committee Ready For Gambling, Sports Betting Vote

Written By

Updated on

Alabama sports betting

A House committee will consider a gambling package that includes Alabama sports betting Wednesday after a lengthy Tuesday hearing.

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee held a hearing Tuesday with 18 testimonies on a comprehensive gambling package, which includes Alabama sports betting. The state’s constitution bans gambling, so the issue requires voter approval of a constitutional amendment.

The package includes House Bill 151, which would give voters their say on gambling in November, and its enacting legislation, House Bill 152. The bills need to garner at least 60% of votes in both chambers.

The committee is scheduled to meet 4 pm ET Wednesday, with the two items on the agenda for a vote.

Alabama sports betting bill details

The ballot question proposes creating an Alabama lottery, and also allows for casinos and sports betting. It also would legalize traditional raffles and bingos.

The enacting legislation proposed would allow the newly created lottery commission to issue up to seven casino licenses at locations designated in the bill. Those commissioners would consider an 11-step competitive bid process.

Casinos could open in-person sportsbooks. Online operators would apply directly to the commission.

Gov. Kay Ivey would also get the green light to negotiate gaming compacts with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The PCI has three existing gaming facilities and is granted one of the proposed casino sites, so there could be up to 10 casinos in the state.

Financial implications for Alabama

Bill sponsor Rep. Chris Blackshear presented an updated fiscal note suggesting Alabama could generate more than $1 billion in gambling revenue. That would come from a 24% tax on casino gaming and 17% on net sports betting revenue.

Blackshear noted the online sports betting potential for Alabama was between $15 million and $42.5 million per year.

He also noted a compact with the PCI could bring the state up to $300 million.

Alabama testimonies abound

Representatives from mental health and veterans health organizations spoke neutrally on the bill, hoping legislators might allocate funding.

Boone Kinard, executive director of external affairs at Alabama Community College System, also spoke in hopes of seeing money go toward community college scholarships.

Meanwhile, Vestavia Hills City Councilor Kimberly Cook said sports betting “creates a ready market for traffickers of drugs, women and children.” She also said that “sports betting advertises to kids and quite literally steals their lunch money.”

Local Alabama sports betting exec speaks out

FanDuel President Christian Genetski spoke in favor of the bill. Genetski is an Alabama native and graduated from Birmingham-Southern College.

Genetski spoke last and highlighted the positives of a regulated gambling market.

He also noted FanDuel’s consumer protections, particularly around age, as several of the testimonies alluded to advertising toward minors.

Alabama organizations against the bill

Representatives from the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Policy Institute spoke out against the bill. They argued gambling would weaken the state’s communities and political framework.

The PCI is also against the bill, hoping for amendments to strengthen its position in the Alabama gaming industry.

“This legislation is obviously the product of hard work,” a PCI statement sent to LSR this week said. “However, we have well-founded concerns about how it will affect our Tribe and our businesses in its current form. We remain optimistic that we can have detailed conversations with legislators and make changes that will continue to allow us to create jobs, spur economic development, attract tourism dollars, and help our neighbors across the State in times of need.”

Ivey supports Alabama sports betting

Ivey created a Study Group on Gambling Policy in 2020, which concluded the state could generate up to $800 million in taxes. State Treasurer Young Boozer was part of the study group and spoke in support of the sports betting legislation Tuesday.

At Ivey’s State of the State address earlier this month, she mentioned her support for Blackshear’s proposal.

“This year, when Alabamians make their way to the ballot box, I hope they will be voting on another issue: Gaming,” Ivey said. “I believe the current proposal being contemplated by the Legislature is good for Alabama, and I will be carefully watching it move through the process. It will crack down on illegal gambling, and it will responsibly regulate limited forms of legal gaming, including a statewide lottery. Thank you to Speaker Ledbetter and his leadership team for their hard work on this. Now is the time for Alabama voters to have another say on this issue.”

Could this year be different?

In his presentation Tuesday, Blackshear noted Alabamans have not voted on a gaming issue in nearly a quarter-century. Lawmakers have made attempts at comprehensive gambling legislation almost every year since then.

The issue often starts in the Senate and dies in the House. This year could be different, according to Sen. Greg Albritton, who has sponsored gambling legislation the previous two sessions

That is because the effort is starting in the House and has the support of House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter. Albritton was consulted during the creation of the bill, he said.