Alabama Sports Betting On Chopping Block As Lawmakers Eye Lottery Ask

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Alabama sports betting

With new language coming in an altered comprehensive gaming package, Alabama sports betting appears its on the cutting block. 

Multiple industry sources told LSR late last week that upcoming changes to the Alabama package could lead to lawmakers creating only the Alabama Lottery. That means the legislation would no longer legalize casinos and Alabama sports betting. However, that could change again in the future.

“Sounds like it changes hourly,” a source said about the bill. “They’ll be making changes in the bill. So safe to say that it’s headed to [conference committee] If the Senate takes it out, House will put it back in, and then who knows.”  

During a committee hearing last week, Sen. Greg Albritton opted not to send forward the existing legislation to not anger those who might vote for a simple lottery bill, and asked for cooperation in crafting amendments. The legislation originated in the House and carries the support of Gov. Kay Ivey, who hinted she might not vote for an amended package. Albritton did not return a request for comment on negotiations.

Alabama package started with sports betting

The House advanced House Bill 151 and House Bill 152, 70-32 and 67-31, in early February. Those votes easily surpassed the 60% threshold needed for constitutional amendments. 

Gaming legislation requires an amendment because the 1901 Alabama Constitution prohibits any form of gambling. Should the bills pass the legislature, it will also need voter approval in November

Prior to any alteration, the bills create an Alabama Lottery while also legalizing casinos and sports betting in the state.

Big push for lottery in Alabama

Alabama is one of five states without a lottery. Alabama voters last had a say on the issue in 1999.

“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 House floor. “It’s time.”

In the past few sessions, lawmakers attempted to include the lottery in a comprehensive gambling package. It slowly garnered more support each year, but many legislators still view casino expansion as a bridge too far.

Sen. Sam Givhan told local media last week multiple lawmakers would vote no on casino gaming, but yes on the lottery.

Alabama struggles with gambling politics

In the past, gambling issues started in the Senate but largely fell on deaf ears in the House. This year, House leadership led the push and advanced a full gambling package to the Senate. 

Albritton was hopeful the Senate would pass a House package, as it was similar to those passed by the chamber in the past. Despite that optimism, Senate opposition emerged against the gambling components.

Along with lawmakers, lobbyists from the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Policy Institute have been vocal opponents during hearings. The organizations worry gambling companies could upset the Alabama political ecosystem.