Alamaba Gambling Expansion Talks Window Closing Soon

Montgomery – With less than six days left, Alabama legislators are racing against the clock in the legislative session to decide whether to bring gambling and its expansion before voters or not.

There have been closed door meetings between Republicans and Democrats from both chambers to determine the fate of gambling in the state. Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) is one of those leaders on the committee.

Sen. Gudger feels optimistic about a bill coming up for a vote before the end of the session, and that there is one key proponent pertaining to the gambling expansion that is still being discussed,

“Where the money is going, right? Everybody wants to know where the money is going,” Sen. Gudger noted. “Is it going for an education lottery? Is it going for mental health? There are a thousand other places that it could go.” 

Sen. Gudger added that as a big mental health proponent, he wants a lot of the potential gambling revenue to go to mental health initiatives and projects, all of which is included in the general fund.

Development of Gambling Expansion in Alabama

The House passed legislation earlier this month that would’ve brought a thorough gambling market to The Heart of Dixie. The legislation would’ve allowed everything from legal online sports betting to commercial casino gaming and the creation of a state lottery. 

House Bill 151 and 152 were slated to make 10 casino licenses available, with betting apps being tied to the retail facilities. However, multiple senate committees stripped it of everything but the lottery before it passed the senate floor on 7 March. The bills were sent back to the house for concurrence, which it declined, which resulted in the creation of the conference committee.

Representative Chris Blackshear, is one of the main supporters of the gambling expansion in the Alabama house, stated that the conference committee had “several productive meetings’,  and he also promised a public conference-committee meeting “when both sides are comfortable doing so”.

Senators Greg Albritton, Bobby Singleton, and Garlan Gudger and Representatives Blackshear, Sam Jones, and Andy Whitt make up the conference committee that is tackling the proponents of the gambling expansion bills.

Alabama’s legislative session concludes on May 20, but there are only a handful of meeting days left in the state’s 2024 legislative session. There’s a major time crunch to come to terms on how to best move forward with gambling expansion.

Placing Gambling in Alabama to its Citizens’ Votes

Citizens and groups for and against the gambling expansion have been vocal and lobbying for the legislators to make their moves and have the Alabamians decide its fate. 

Ulysses White, a VictoryLand Casino in Macon County worker for 25 years, traveled to Montgomery to speak with legislators about how important it is to bring this issue before voters.

He implored that to make sure that people from Macon County are represented, and they’re being treated fairly, the decision should go to a vote that includes the citizens of Alabama. White also added that if this gambling bill is passed, it would boost the whole Black Belt area.

Steve Flowers, a political analyst, stated that Alabamians are tired of their money going to other states and that they’re ready to vote on gambling.

“I don’t care what they do this entire session. They can pass the best budgets, they can pass all the DEI, they can pass all the bad talking about the libraries… All that stuff they pass is without any interest to Alabamians,” Flowers added.

Meanwhile, the Eagle Forum of Alabama encourages those opposed to gambling in the state to call their legislators to vote against the bill.

If approved, the decision to approve any gambling expansion would go to the voters. The house version of the bill would put the issue on the November ballot. Meanwhile, the senate version would create a special election in September.

What is the Alabama Gambling Industry so Far?

Alabama is one of the US states that have not legalized gambling outright. While its citizens can wager on greyhound racing and horse racing, albeit in highly restrictive conditions, conventional gambling activities like poker, slot games, and table games as well as sports betting are still prohibited in the state. Meanwhile, other US states have started legalizing gambling in both traditional and online casinos.

This is why the decision for gambling expansion is an important and urgent one, as it will determine how the gambling industry in the Cotton State in the following years.

Last Updated on by jonathan r

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