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Alabama Senate Advances Revised Gambling Proposal

Delve into the latest developments in Alabama's gambling landscape as the Senate advances a revised two-bill proposal, paving the way for the establishment of a state lottery and electronic wagering machines. Discover the intricacies of the legislative process, key provisions, and the potential impact on Alabama's gambling industry and future ballot initiatives.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: Mar 11, 2024

Alabama Senate Advances Revised Gambling Proposal

On March 6, the Alabama Senate made significant strides in the realm of gambling legislation by advancing a two-bill proposal aimed at establishing a state lottery and permitting electronic wagering machines at various dog tracks and other locations across the state. However, these advancements came after a series of amendments were made to the proposed bills, reflecting ongoing deliberations and negotiations within the legislative body.

 

The Key Points

  1. Legislative Advancements: The Alabama Senate's recent approval of a two-bill proposal signifies a significant step forward in the state's gambling legislation. The bills aim to establish a state lottery and permit electronic wagering machines at select locations, following amendments made during the legislative process.
  2. Amendments and Adjustments: The Senate's version of the legislation differs from the House's initial proposals, notably excluding provisions related to sports betting and casinos while retaining frameworks for a state lottery and compact agreements. This divergence reflects ongoing negotiations and compromises within the legislative body.
  3. Path to Voter Consideration: With the revised gambling proposal returning to the House of Representatives, lawmakers must decide whether to accept Senate amendments or convene a conference committee for further deliberation. Ultimately, the fate of the legislation rests with the voters, who would have the final say in an upcoming election.

 

The first bill (HB 151), which proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing gambling, secured passage in a close vote of 22-11, just meeting the required threshold of 21 votes. Following suit, the Senate passed the companion bill (HB 152) in a vote of 23-10, setting the stage for the creation of the Gambling Proceeds Fund within the State Treasury to receive all net revenues generated by the lottery.

Last month, the Alabama House took a pivotal step by voting in favor of legalizing sports betting, casinos, and a lottery, with respective votes of 70-32 for HB 151 and 67-31-1 for HB 152. Sponsored by Representative Chris Blackshear, these bills propose the establishment of a lottery and a state gambling commission, allowing for casino gaming and sports wagering at seven designated locations across the state.

However, the version of the legislation passed by the Alabama Senate diverged from the House's initial proposals by omitting provisions related to sports betting and casinos while retaining the framework for a state lottery and compact agreements. Under the Senate's plan, only pari-mutuel betting and historic horse racing machines would be permitted at seven designated locations.

Notably, the proposal includes provisions for Governor Kay Ivey to negotiate compacts with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, potentially enabling the tribe to operate full-fledged casinos with table games at three tribal lands in Atmore, Wetumpka, and Montgomery.

 

“The effort was trying to get control of this industry. With this bill, we didn’t get complete control. We got some control. And that’s a beginning, assuming we can get this passed by the people and through the House.”

 

As the revised gambling proposal now returns to the House of Representatives, lawmakers must deliberate on whether to accept the Senate's amendments or proceed to a conference committee for further discussion. Ultimately, the fate of the legislation rests with the voters, who would have the final say in an upcoming election.

Senator Greg Albritton, the legislation's sponsor and a staunch advocate for gambling reform, emphasized the challenges of regulating the industry effectively while expressing optimism about the progress made. Should the Alabama Gambling Control Act receive approval from both chambers of the legislature, it would pave the way for the establishment of a new nine-member Alabama Gambling Commission tasked with overseeing lottery operations and pari-mutuel betting activities.

With supporters striving to garner sufficient legislative support to bring the matter before voters for the first time in 25 years, Alabama stands at a pivotal juncture in its gambling landscape. As one of the few states without a lottery, the potential approval of this proposal could mark a significant milestone in the state's history. If endorsed by both legislative chambers, the proposal would be placed on the ballot for voter consideration on September 10.

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