When it comes to states synonymous with the South and its traditions, there may be no greater representative than Alabama. Its contributions and appearances in American history are legion, both good and bad.
However, there may be no state more confused about its identity with respect to gambling than Alabama. It has forged its own unique place as perhaps the most on-again, off-again state in the union.
Alabama’s official stance on online gambling is similar to that of many states. There is no law definitively for or against online gambling in the Heart of Dixie. However, the only brand of gambling that is securely legal in Alabama is pari-mutuel facilities.
Furthermore, there is no state lottery in Alabama. This negates a common avenue for proponents of gambling to introduce slot machine-type gambling to regions of the country. So, the current climate for typical online gambling is fairly negative, even though its status under the law is uncertain.
However, Alabama is moving forward with the Fantasy Sports Bill. It recently cleared the state house and could become law in the near future. The bill, dubbed HB354, now moves to the Alabama State Senate. In theory, it could be on the governor’s desk within a few weeks. There are some rumbles of constitutional difficulty with the bill though, because of Alabama’s express prohibition of gambling in its chief legislative document.
Interestingly though, supporters of the bill have managed to turn the discourse about DFS into one where daily fantasy sports is primarily a skill game. Thus it cannot be considered gambling under state law. This structuring of the argument could potentially open the door for other expansions in the state for skill-heavy games, such as poker. For right now, the best thing to do is wait and see. But it does seem that things might be shifting down on the Delta.
Likely online gambling operators
|FanDuel/DraftKings||Largest daily fantasy sports operators – likely waiting in the wings for legislation to pass|
|The Poarch Band of Creek Indians||Own three casinos in eastern Alabama|
|Milton McGregor||Owns Victoryland racino and has endured work stoppages, lawsuits, and even arrests to bring gambling to Alabamans|
Social casino options
The social casino options in Alabama are typical of most states. Slotomania, Double Down Casino, Big Fish, Zynga Poker, and Zynga Slots are all available.
However, Alabama’s laws are uniquely harsh when it comes to enforcement. Even social gambling is barred inside the state, to the point that players in home games have found themselves on the receiving end of the criminal justice system. Players should exercise great caution in playing any type of casino game in Alabama. This includes the free social ones on Facebook or mobile devices.
The option about which to be especially cautious is MyVegas. This is MGM’s free slots app that allows players to build up loyalty points in a banked account. The danger lies in the fact that these loyalty points can be exchanged for real-world comps at participating MGM properties and partners, including some properties in nearby Mississippi. It would not be a stretch for Alabama to apply its stringent anti-gambling laws to the receipt of these prizes.
State casino operator history
Alabama has one of the more hit-and-miss gambling histories in the US. The state legalized pari-mutuel wagering on horse and dog races in 1971. Its first track opened in 1973, but the tracks have been malingering along by offering less-prestigious greyhound racing for several years.
Its first bingo parlor opened in 1980 when a single county legalized it (Jefferson, through constitutional amendment). However, the state has had to pass 18 more amendments to bring bingo to each new county that desires the game.
Most notably, the game of electronic bingo has gone back and forth in legality several times since 2003. Voters in Macon County approved a constitutional amendment to allow the machines at the Victoryland racetrack. This began a comical cycle of the facility placing machines at the location and the government confiscating the machines and associated cash, along with closing down the entire facility, only to have the racetrack reopen again with new machines. This cycle has occurred at least twice, and many small debates have raged between these blow-ups. As of September 2016, Alabamans can once again play electronic bingo at Victoryland. No word on when the next raid and shutdown will occur.
The state does not offer a lottery option to its residents, even though lottery is often the exception for many states (like Texas) that are traditionally opposed to gambling. Various important citizens in the state have been campaigning for a lottery since 1993. In fact, it was a major plank for Don Siegelman when he successfully ran for governor in 1998. Even so, he still couldn’t get the constitution amended to allow lottery. The struggle is ongoing: an article from February cited many Alabama lawmakers’ doubt that lottery legalization is in the offing.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 allowed federally recognized tribes to operate gaming facilities on tribal lands, and in Alabama, the only tribe to do so is the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The tribe operates three Class II facilities (meaning no table games) in the eastern part of the state. They generate tax revenue for Alabama’s government. Naturally, the state sued the tribe in 2013 to close the three casinos. It took two years of litigation to finally have the suit thrown out.
The most silver of linings for Alabama residents is the state’s proximity to Mississippi. There are two different areas of note for casino gambling in Mississippi – Biloxi/Gulfport and Tunica. Over 30 casinos are spread across Alabama’s neighbor to the west, and the Biloxi locations are especially accessible to residents in the southern part of Alabama. Mobile is a short hour’s drive away.
Still, much like flowers in the desert, four facilities have managed to find a way to live in the Heart of Dixie. They are listed below.
|Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Atmore||Atmore||The Poarch Band of Creek Indians|
|Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Wetumpka||Wetumpka||The Poarch Band of Creek Indians|
|Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Montgomery||Montgomery||The Poarch Band of Creek Indians|
State Legal Environment
|Permitted/Offered?||Notes & Restrictions|
|Land-Based Gambling||Yes||Pari-mutuel wagering mostly – some electronic bingo, but tentative legal status|
|Online Gambling||No||Daily fantasy sports may be available soon|
|Charitable or House-Based Gambling||Yes||Bingo only – NO SOCIAL GAMBLING|
|Minimum Gambling Age||18 for pari-mutuel; 21 for casinos|