- Alabama’s Senate Tourism Committee has proposed a constitutional bill that would authorize a series of casinos, sports betting and a state lottery
- The bill proposal came at the end of heated debate with opponents accusing the licenses would reach a handful of influential operators
- The bill has been moved to the Senate floor
The Tourism Committee in Alabama has proposed an amendment that would authorize a number of casinos, sports betting venues, and a state lottery in the state. The proposal was swiftly advanced at the end of a heated debate with opposing voices complaining about the limited number of gaming operators who would be granted a license.
One of the main arguments that the bill’s main sponsor Senator Greg Albritton used to support his cause was that the time has finally come for Alabama to tackle the sensitive topic of gambling within its borders. He added that, if passed, the constitutional amendment would provide the people of Alabama with a highly-anticipated state lottery, while grabbing control of gambling with only a handful of casinos.
The Senate Tourism Committee voted in favor of his proposal that would authorize sports betting venues, a state lottery, eight full-service casinos hosting table games and slot machines, as well as two smaller casinos with up to 300 slot machines per venue. The bill has been moved to the Senate floor and it will be voted across the state in November, provided it first receives the approval of lawmakers.
Strong opponents of the amendment argued that the passing of the bill would give licenses to a restricted number of lottery, sports betting, and casino operators. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ current state dog tracks in Mobile, Greene, Macon, and Jefferson would host the ten new casinos. The descendants of the original Creek Nation would also be allowed to host a casino at each of the three tribal locations sites, along with a new site somewhere in Jackson or DeKalb counties.
State Representative Kelvin Lawrence expressed his views in front of the committee. The Democrat that announced he would shut down an exciting gaming venue in Hayneville by limiting the number of slot machines in it argued the Legislature should not be in the position of choosing “winners and losers”. His arguments were supported by the usual opponents of legalized gambling in the state as well as bingo representatives who are expecting to have their operations shut down following the bill’s passing.
The licenses at the dog tracks would need to be subject to bidding, while track owners would also be given the chance to make their own final bids for the licenses. The procedure could be a “rigged process” as current owners will be allowed to bid one dollar over the winning bids to get their licenses, according to lobbyist Heather Coleman Davis.
If approved by three-fifths of lawmakers, the proposed bill would need to bring some changes to the state’s constitution. It would also require a majority of votes from state voters in order to become effective. In 1999, voters rejected the idea of a lottery as proposed by governor Don Siegelman. Ever since Alabama has been one of the five US states that do not run a state lottery.
With the conservatives constantly opposing the legalization of gambling and the need to decide who would operate the profitable gaming machines, all trials to create a lottery and make casinos legal in Alabama failed miserably. The new gambling proposal together with an additional bill that would create a gaming commission and rules to operate the new facilities have been sent to the Senate.