Alabama Lawmaker Makes Late Push for Sports Betting, Casinos

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Alabama Lawmaker Makes Late Push for Sports Betting, Casinos
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With the clock ticking, an Alabama legislator is making a last-minute push to legalize sports betting, casinos and a lottery in the state. If successful, the effort also would allow online sports betting.

Last week, Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, introduced Senate Bill 293, a proposed constitutional amendment to expand gaming and create a new Alabama Education Lottery and Gambling Commission.

The commission would supervise and regulate the state’s expansion into sports betting, Las Vegas-style casinos and a lottery.

Albritton also introduced SB294 to implement the amendment if it’s approved.

A hearing on the proposal is set for Wednesday in the Senate Tourism Committee.

Time Running Out on Gaming Expansion

The legislative session, limited to 30 meeting days, will only have nine meeting days remaining on Wednesday.

All legislation, including measures to expand gaming, has to be approved on the Senate and House floors before advancing to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey for her consideration. If OK’d at the Capitol in Montgomery, the initiative to expand gaming would go before voters in November.

The short timeframe at the statehouse leaves little opportunity for the legislation to make its way through the process. That doesn’t mean Albritton is giving up. At a recent news conference, he said Alabama is losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to neighboring states that have gaming.

“We need to take action on this now,” he said. "Waiting another year is not going to help us.”

Mobile and In-Person Wagering Included in Bill

Under Albritton’s legislation, five casinos with table games would be permitted across the state. The casinos would be located at four current dog tracks and a site that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians owns.

Two “satellite casinos,” only offering electronic gaming machines, would be awarded on a competitive basis.

The measure would legalize sports betting, making it available for in-person wagering at the five licensed casinos. Online sports betting also would be permitted on platforms offered through the five casinos, according to the most recent version of SB293.

Gaming revenue would be taxed at 20% and allocated to education scholarships and other state needs.

Gaming Expansion Unsuccessful in Previous Years

Efforts to expand gaming in Alabama have failed in previous legislative sessions. The Alabama Track Owners Association said these defeats have cost the state $700 million each year in tax revenue.

“We’ve sat by for more than 20 years while the Legislature has failed to take advantage of the best online casino sites and lottery economic development opportunity that would create good high-paying jobs and bring additional tax revenue to our state,” the association’s website states.

Sports Betting Expands in the South

Two of Alabama’s neighbors, Tennessee and Mississippi, have legal sports betting.

Mississippi’s wagering is limited to in-person bets placed inside a casino. Legislation to allow mobile sports betting failed at this year’s session in Jackson.

Tennessee, which doesn’t have brick-and-mortar casinos, allows bettors to use their smartphones or computers in placing mobile wagers. That program has been in place since November 2020.

If online sports betting legislation fails this session in Alabama, that will leave Louisiana as the only state along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida, with legal mobile sports wagering.

Sports betting also is allowed in person at Louisiana casinos.

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Larry Henry

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