Alabama Sports Betting Left Behind As Senate Passes Lottery Bill

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Alabama sports betting

After more than eight hours of debate, a gambling package advanced Thursday night out of the Alabama Senate, albeit without sports betting. 

Once-comprehensive gambling legislation that included full casino gaming and Alabama sports betting from the House passed through the Senate heavily amended. The legislation creates an Alabama Lottery, and allows for tribal compact negotiations and pari-mutuel wagering, but not commercial casinos or AL sports betting.

The two bills both passed 22-11, surpassing the 60% vote threshold needed for a constitutional amendment. Sen. Greg Albritton carried the bills, HB 151 and HB 152, in the Senate. Albritton was displeased with the final outcome in his chamber.

“You know it’s a bad day legislatively when you can’t get a tabling motion on a single bill, a single matter,” Albritton told reporters after the floor session, per the Alabama Reflector. “It was a pretty tough day. It was an unfriendly bill with at least a semi-hostile crowd, and they were all skeptics of what was happening. It was kind of an interesting endeavor.”

What now for Alabama sports betting?

The Senate’s version now goes back to the House. The House could agree to the changes and send it to Gov. Kay Ivey. The legislature is on spring break next week, returning March 19.

More likely, however, the House will not agree to the alterations. The legislation would then go to a conference committee, where House representatives would likely push for more of their inclusions, such as sports betting.

Ivey, however, is a supporter of the House version, which includes full commercial casinos and online sports betting. She hinted she would not sign “just any bill” on gambling.

What is in Alabama Senate version? 

The legislation creates the Alabama Lottery. Alabama is one of five states without a lottery. 

It also allows Gov. Kay Ivey to enter compact negations with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. It would also allow pari-mutuel betting and slot machine-like historical horse racing at seven locations in the state. 

The state could tax the gaming facilities between 20% and 28%

Special election for Alabama gambling

If passed by the legislature, Alabama voters would have a say on the issue in a special election September 10

“The Republicans are worried that gambling drives Dems to the polls,” an industry source said about the election date, which was moved from the general election in the Senate committee substitute. “Fake narrative.”

Alabama voters last had a say on a potential lottery in 1999 during an October special election. That date drew a light turnout and might have contributed to its loss, according to the Alabama Reflector.

Changes in tax use from Alabama gambling

Senate amendments also altered where tax revenue will go from gambling. The fiscal note on the Senate legislation estimates up to $379 million in tax revenue, down from $1.2 billion in the House version.

On Thursday, the Senate stripped language that some politicians felt was an expansion of Medicaid. They then distributed the funds split three ways: general fund, education and infrastructure. 

The funding argument was at the heart of a lengthy filibuster, including an hour from Albritton on the bills he carried. Albritton even asked to table the legislation after a provision to help pay for a prison in his district was removed.

Tribal monopoly an issue for Democrats

Multiple Senate Democrats expressed concerns about a full casino gambling monopoly for the PCI. 

Albritton said the House version addressed that but was trying to pass the bill to get it back to the House.

House Democrats have similar concerns. Democratic support is crucial to meet the 60% vote threshold.

How Alabama got here

Since then, lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to act on the issue. In multiple recent sessions, Senate versions made it to the House, which fell on deaf ears in the lower chamber.

This year, House leadership took control and sent forth bills similar to the versions the Senate previously passed. Heading into the session, Albritton was hopeful sports betting could pass. However, he also predicted Senate changes despite the previous success in the chamber.

“I hope [that it passes],” Albritton said in November 2023. “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.”