Alabama Sports Betting In Gambling Package Passed By House

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Alabama sports betting

Alabama sports betting chances took a big leap forward Thursday with two House approvals. 

Unlike recent years when gambling legislation died in the Alabama House, Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter backed the issue this session, and on Thursday, his chamber advanced a comprehensive gambling package, including Alabama sports betting. The House cleared the 60% threshold needed to pass a constitutional amendment with 70-32 and 67-31 votes on the two bills.

Now the bill heads to the Senate, where Sen. Greg Albritton is confident there are votes to get the bills to Gov. Kay Ivey, a supporter of the package. Because constitutional amendments also need voter approval, even with Ivey’s signature, Alabamans would decide its fate in November.

“It’s been a quarter-century since we’ve allowed our citizens the right to vote on this issue,” Rep. Andy Whitt, one of the package’s co-sponsors, said on the floor. “It’s time.”

Quick pace for Alabama gambling bill

Before the Alabama legislative session started earlier this month, Albritton told LSR the House was ready to fast-track a gambling package. That news came after Albritton’s attempts at the issue were sidelined by the House over the previous few years.

The package was taken up by the Economic Development and Tourism Committee for a hearing Tuesday

The committee advanced it to the floor Wednesday evening.

What Alabama bills do

House Bill 151 is the constitutional amendment of the package, which is necessary because the 1901 Alabama Constitution outlaws gambling. The legislation would allow voters the opportunity to weigh in on the issue in November.

House Bill 152 is the enacting legislation of the package. It would create the Alabama Gaming Commission and Alabama Lottery Corp.

HB 152 would also legalize up to seven casinos and allow for online sports betting. Ivey could also enter into gaming compact negotiations with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Sports betting potential in Alabama

During Tuesday’s public hearing, Rep. Chris Blackshear shared an updated fiscal note that projects the state can bring in up to $41.5 million yearly from taxes on sports betting revenue. There is a 17% tax on sports betting in the package.

The casinos could generate up to $492.2 million for the state from a 24% tax on the gaming. The lottery is projected to generate more than $300 million annually.

Blackshear told the committee the comprehensive bill could generate more than $1 billion yearly for the state. In 2020, Ivey appointed a Study Group on Gambling Policy, which found the state could generate up to $800 million.

Change of luck for Alabama sports betting?

Previous gambling legalization attempts have originated in the Senate before falling on deaf ears in the House. With House leadership on its side this year, the chamber weighed in early.

With Ivey’s support, the gambling package is at the top of many local watch lists this session.

Pressure also is mounting from Mississippi and Georgia, which already advanced sports betting bills beyond their chamber of origin this session.

Has the time come in Alabama?

Most of the legislators in favor of the bill said they want their constituents to have a say on the issue. Similarly, Rep. Rolanda Hollis said she is tired of seeing millions of dollars leave the state.

“Every year, the state of Alabama pays for infrastructure in other states, kids to go to school in other states, and we should bring that money home,” Hollis said.

Opponents largely said gambling goes against Alabama’s reputation of having family values. They also said they feel the legislation is rushed.