A comprehensive package of legislation that includes Alabama sports betting is down to its last few days to pass.
The package aimed mostly at launching a state lottery could see the House floor Thursday. Alabama is one of five states without a lottery.
With just two legislative days left in the Alabama session, several hurdles remain for AL sports betting.
“What are the chances? I’ve done several of these, particularly lottery bills, I don’t know why I keep doing them,” said Sen. Jim McClendon, one of the main sponsors of the package. “This has a possibility, it’s definitely advanced this far. We will know Thursday night.”
Marijuana could muddy Alabama situation
McClendon told LSR he has kept his nose out of House business. He does know the intention is to get the bill on the floor Thursday.
However, before the lottery and gaming package will see the floor, the House must act on a marijuana bill. That bill received nine hours of discussion on Tuesday, McClendon said.
“They’re not going to attack the gambling issues until something happens to that,” he said. “Kill it, pass it, I don’t know.”
Last day is Thursday for sports betting
If marijuana takes up too much time Thursday, it could make the Senate’s job trickier. While the bills passed House committees, it was not without opposition and alterations.
House passage on the 30th day of the legislative session would make it almost impossible for a conference committee and approval from both chambers. The Senate passed the main Senate Bill 319 on April 13, 23-9.
“We managed to get a good bill to them and now it’s in the House,” McClendon said. “I’m not reacting to the changes until they pass it. And they may not.”
If it does pass the House on Thursday, McClendon is hopeful of a last-day push to get the package on the bill on the ballot in November 2022. The Alabama constitution currently prohibits gambling, so it requires a vote of approval by citizens.
Continued push for Alabama lottery
McClendon said the reason he keeps trying to push lottery bills is simple: his constituents. The Alabama lottery issue hasn’t reached voters since 1999.
“The people in my district have made it really clear they would like to buy a lottery ticket without driving to Georgia,” he said. “Every state that touches Alabama has lotteries. So Alabama dollars are going to those states.”
Other parts of the package include turning state racetracks into casinos and adding sports betting, retail and mobile, at the tracks. That’s part of the political puzzle McClendon said is necessary to appease some counties that are in conflict with the state.
Alabama sports betting a complicated issue
Tuesday was a major day for the package of bills in House committees. While all the bills progressed, the hearings were not without lively discussion.
Opposition came from Republicans and Democrats. Some Republicans are uneasy with the “intrusion” of regulations and the idea of gambling, while Democrats want to ensure their constituents are included.
McClendon’s bill also includes directions for Gov. Kay Ivey to negotiate a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Previous gaming bills have been killed because of disagreements between the Poarch Band and dog tracks.
Ivey on board for Alabama gaming
Ivey is supportive of gaming legislation.
“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 gaming package could result in up to $710 million in annual revenue for the state, according to an Ivey-issued study last year. That includes $10 million from Alabama sports betting.