Alabama sports betting could be on the ballot next year.
Last week, the Senate passed a constitutional amendment, 23-9, that would put a comprehensive gaming and lottery bill on the ballot for voters in November 2022. Senate Bill 319 started as a lottery bill, but three amendments added casino gaming and sports betting language.
Senators Jim McClendon, Del Marsh, Greg Reed and Bobby Singleton are pushing the bipartisan legislation.
Alabama is one of five states without a lottery, the main focus of the legislation. Previous efforts to establish an Alabama Lottery have fallen short:
“Every time I go back to my district, the message is clear: people want to have the right to vote on a state lottery and gaming,” McClendon said in a release.
The House of Representatives now needs to pass the bill for it to make the ballot.
What the AL sports betting bill does
The bill would allow Alabama to control, regulate and tax gaming operations in the state.
It changes illegal gaming operations from a misdemeanor to a felony. It also establishes the Alabama Gaming Commission to regulate all gaming.
Sites for casinos and sports betting would be created in:
- Jefferson County
- Mobile County
- Macon County
- Greene County
- Houston County
- Jackson or DeKalb counties
- Three sites owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians
Growing support for Alabama gaming?
A gambling bill in Alabama needs constitutional amendment and requires three-fifths of lawmakers and approval by state voters.
A package of gaming bills moved out of the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee on March 17. The comprehensive package emerged over the past month.
“You have members who want to see a more comprehensive gaming package and those who do prefer a simple lottery. All we did today was keep both alive,” Marsh said at the time.
The Alabama Republican Assembly reportedly is urging representatives to vote no on the bill. According to a report, “the conservative Alabama Republican Assembly calls itself ‘the conscience of the Republican Party.’”
Speaker Mac McCutcheon has voiced support for a gaming package in the past. Past efforts for simple lottery bills have stalled as opposition came from Democrats who represent districts with dog tracks, which believe a lottery could provide the tribal entities the ability to use video lottery terminals (VLT.) Republican legislators are also often split on gaming issues in the state.
Governor seems to be on board
Gov. Kay Ivey could be in support of whatever gambling bill moves out of the legislature. Marsh reportedly met with Ivey and House leaders to ensure something makes it on the ballot.
“Governor Ivey wants to be able to support the final gaming proposal from the Legislature,” Ivey Press Secretary Gina Maiola told AL.com. “She has expressed this to Senator Marsh and others, and we still have some work to be done. She remains engaged and in conversations with Senator Marsh.
“Ultimately, we must be able to control and regulate gambling if it is going to be legal in Alabama, and the intention is certainly not to have a casino on every corner. The governor supports the people of Alabama having the final say.”
The governor would need to negotiate a new compact with the Poarch Band if it passes.
Financial boon for Alabama?
An Ivey-issued study in 2020 found a comprehensive gaming package could produce up to $710 million of revenue annually for the state.
The financial breakdown:
- Lottery: $200 million–$300 million
- Casino Gaming: $300 million–$400 million
- Sports Betting: $10 million
- Potential Total: $510 million–$710 million
“This vote will allow our residents to finally reap the benefits of gaming, by allowing those who play games in Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, or Tennessee to now play those same games at home,” Singleton, the Senate minority leader, said in the release. “This vote has the potential to be a major game-changer for our education and healthcare systems.”
Alabama House sports betting bill stalled
Rep. John W. Rogers introduced HB 161 to create an Alabama Sports Wagering Commission. It’s still pending committee action in the House.
The commission would issue and oversee sports betting licenses. Under the bill, sports betting would collect a tax of 10% of wagering revenue.
The bill allows up to seven sports betting licenses, authorizing sports wagering at physical locations and online platforms approved by the commission.