Few people associate Alabama with casinos and gambling, even if they live in Alabama. For the most part, the Heart of Dixie is known for its indelible connection to the civil rights movement, the Crimson Tide football team, and Forrest Gump. Alabama is not known for legal online gambling sites as none exist.
Alabama features no commercial casinos, no card rooms, and no lottery games. There are, however, three tribal casinos, four simulcast racinos, and the controversial electronic bingo options. So Alabama is not devoid of legal gambling. The state’s deep connection to the Christian ethos means that there is never any shortage of opposition to gambling and online gambling in the state. However, with the sheer volume of gambling bills active in the Alabama Legislature, we have to talk about where Alabama may be headed with regard to games of chance.
However, since 2018, gambling has been on some unlikely lips in the US. So, while it’s a bit of a surprise that Alabama might be moving toward a major gambling expansion, it jibes with the overall trend toward gambling in many states. A recent bill that would have brought sports betting and casinos into the state made it all the way past the Alabama Senate. So, if you’re curious about how serious Alabama is about stepping up its gambling profile, including the consideration of online gambling sites, you’re in the right place.
Is online gambling legal in Alabama?
It depends what kind of online gambling you mean. If you’re talking about casinos, sports betting and poker, then you’re out of luck. There are no legal online casinos, sportsbooks or poker rooms available in Alabama. It’s possible that things will change in this regard, particularly with sports betting, but nothing has happened yet. Here is the legal definition of the offense of simple gambling in Alabama, from Title 13A, Article 2, Division 1 of the Code of Alabama:
“A person commits the crime of simple gambling if he knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity as a player.”
However, if you want to play daily fantasy sports in Alabama, go right ahead. Thanks to 2019’s HB361, DFS companies can become licensed and regulated entities in the state. The legalization marked a complete reversal from the state’s previous treatment of DFS titans FanDuel and DraftKings. Both of the big boys left Alabama after a 2016 attorney general opinion declared DFS to be gambling. However, after HB361 became law, they returned. Now, Alabamans and visitors to the state can play DFS games as much as they like.
People in Alabama can also place wagers on horse races through their mobile devices. The lack of live racing in the state, be it horse or greyhound, is due to economic concerns, rather than regulatory ones. Unfortunately, the top online horse betting site, TVG, does not accept Alabama wagers at this time. However, TwinSpires and some of the other sites will accept your bet.
Finally, as is the case in most other states, Alabama residents are more than welcome to play on sweepstakes sites, whether they are sweepstakes drawing sites (like raffles) or sweepstakes casinos. Alabama sweepstakes law is not terribly explicit and mainly concerns itself with deceptive or fraudulent sweepstakes practices. As long as the sites you visit are legitimate, you can play without any concern.
Are online casinos legal in Alabama?
No. There are no online casinos that are legal and available to Alabama residents and visitors. Any site that says otherwise is either in error or not telling the whole truth.
The only legitimate options for Alabamans to play are sweepstakes casino sites. In this case, the best opportunities for sweepstakes casino play are Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots and Funzpoints. In order to understand how these sites work, it’s important to realize what we mean when we’re talking about sweepstakes.
Everyone has encountered sweepstakes before. From Ed McMahon, the PCH Prize Patrol, those mailers from car dealerships and the Monopoly game at McDonald’s, we all know that sweepstakes involve some sort of prize giveaway. As it turns out, even though the idea that they are giving away millions of dollars seems far fetched, they legally must give out the exact prizes they advertise. So, even though you probably don’t know anyone who has met the Prize Patrol and won life-changing money, it has to happen for Publishers Clearing House to stay legal.
Another requirement for legitimate sweepstakes is that they must be free to enter. So, the phrase “no purchase necessary to play” is one of the mandates of being a legal sweepstakes contest. Finally, there can be no way to buy yourself into the giveaway or improve your chances of winning through a purchase. Everyone must have the same chance of winning, even if it’s a very small chance.
All that being said, sweepstakes casinos in Alabama are an excellent and legal option to play online slots and table games. While the games aren’t exactly like those you find at legal sites or at Alabama tribal casinos, they are close enough and similarly fun to play.
Can you play online poker in Alabama?
No. For the same reasons that we described for online casinos, folks in Alabama are unable to play online poker.
Similarly, however, Alabamans can give Global Poker a try. Global Poker is a sweepstakes site and a sister site to Chumba and LuckyLand. You can play cash games, tournaments, and sit and go’s in a variety of games and formats for real money prizes. You can find a few slot titles and table games on Global Poker, as well.
Will Alabama regulate online gambling in the future?
Possibly. There are many reasons for optimism about online gambling in Alabama. There are already a few types of online gambling available in the state, and lawmakers are already proposing more.
For one thing, as we already mentioned, people in Alabama can place wagers on simulcast horse races around the country through their computers and mobile devices. Folks in the state are also able to play daily fantasy sports. So, in a sense, Alabama is already regulating online gambling. However, there are bigger things on the horizon. Most notably, SB319 and its amendments, SB310 and SB311, passed all the way through the state Senate before getting bogged down in the House. Although those particular bills are dead, what is of particular interest to online gambling fans is the language in SB310. Specifically, it says the following:
“A sports wagering operator license authorizes the operation of sports wagering at a covered location through up to three, individually branded, Internet sports wagering platforms operated by management service providers, which may include websites and associated mobile applications approved by the commission.”
SB319 represented one of the most comprehensive overhauls of gambling that we’ve ever seen a state attempt in a single piece of legislation. It called for the establishment of a state lottery, charitable bingo halls, an expanded state compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and, most notably, the placement of five new commercial casinos in the state.
With regard to Alabama online sports gambling, the bill and its amendments would have allowed each casino license holder (the five, plus the Poarch Band) to host up to three online sportsbook skins. In other words, there could have potentially been 18 separate sportsbook brands in Alabama, if this bill had become law as written. Unfortunately, things fell apart in the House due to partisan quarrels about various late-stage additions to the bill.
However, if you’re a fan of Alabama online gambling, you should be quite excited about how far this bill made it through the Alabama Legislature. These types of events can sometimes serve as an omen for things to come.
Legal online gambling in Alabama
All of the talk about online gambling sites in the future for Alabama might have you confused. An internet search would seem to tell a different story. Numerous gambling sites appear to accept players from Alabamans.
The truth is that all of those sites operate outside the US. Offshore casinos come with a host of baggage that makes playing and doing business with them unacceptably risky.
The problem is that playing on these sites sets you outside the protections of the US and Alabama justice systems. If you had any kind of legal dispute with one of these sites, you might find your options woefully limited for getting any kind of relief. A lawsuit in an American court doesn’t mean much to a company with its servers and offices somewhere in the Caribbean.
You also can’t be sure how reliable these sites are, anyway. It’s much more difficult to discern what is legitimate and what is not if they are thousands of miles away. Even if you trust the sites, you also cannot be sure about their security practices. Remember, you have to share personal and financial details with any gambling site in order to play. If the site security is suspect, your most sensitive information might be vulnerable to criminals or other bad actors.
In short, though it is frustrating to make do with the limited options that you have in Alabama, it’s just not worth taking a risk offshore. Have patience and stay safe.
Who regulates online gambling in Alabama?
Ugh. Perhaps no state has a less-defined answer about who will or would regulate online gambling than Alabama. We have never run across another state with less centralized gambling regulation in place over its existing gambling properties than Alabama. So, there is quite a bit of infrastructure required before online gambling could get going.
In most states, the regulator is no surprise. It’s usually the gambling commission for the state. In some cases, it might be the lottery commission, particularly if other types of gambling have not been as prevalent. Unfortunately, Alabama has neither of these commissions in service at present. SB319, the nigh-omnibus gambling bill passed by the Alabama Senate, explicitly would have created both organizations in order to serve the nascent industries. According to the bill’s language, the Alabama Gaming Commission would be the regulator for most gambling activities, including online sports betting and, by extension, any other type of online gambling.
You might think that the Alabama Racing Commission would have the experience edge when it came to gambling and have a strong claim to regulating some of the new types of gambling, particularly sports betting. However, there is no centralized Alabama Racing Commission. Each of the four racinos in Alabama are governed by commissions created within their own municipalities, rather than at the state level. The regulator over, say, Victoryland would have no jurisdiction over the activities at Birmingham Race Course, Mobile Greyhound Park, Greenetrack or anywhere else in the state. Thus, a racing commission over sports betting is not tenable for Alabama.
The other type of online gambling in the state, DFS, has one of the most unusual regulators of all — the office of the attorney general. That’s right — the very same office that called DFS illegal gambling now has oversight over it. However, a state attorney general would be an odd choice to manage gambling in the entire state, so it’s unlikely that Alabama would look in this direction.
What is the legal gambling age in Alabama?
You must be 21 or older in order to visit any of the few gambling locations in Alabama. Both the tribal casinos and the racinos require players over the drinking age, presumably for that very reason. The only exception is DFS play. Alabamans must only be 19 in order to play.
There is no reason to assume that this requirement will be different for online casino gambling or sports betting in Alabama. SB310, a supporting amendment to SB319, explicitly states that players for either type of gambling will have to be 21.
Gambling addiction and/or problem gambling is present anywhere people live, regardless of their state’s stance on the topic. Alabama is one of a handful of states without dedicated funding for treatment of problem gamblers.
With that said, the best place to go for help with gambling addictions in Alabama is the Alabama Council on Compulsive Gambling. The ACCG provides information and referral resources for sufferers of problem gambling in the state. It also aids in the education of providers and professionals who might encounter those with gambling addictions. Gamblers who are concerned that they are struggling can call 211 while inside the state to receive information and connect with trained advisers at the ACCG. If you wish, you can also connect with counselors at the NCPG, either by calling or texting 1-800-522-4700, or visiting the council’s live chat room.
If you prefer a more self-guided approach, then there are several support groups that might be able to help. The first place Alabamans can turn is to Gamblers Anonymous. GA is the largest and best-known gambling support organization in the country, and each week, there are several meetings in Alabama.
If you are struggling to help and live with a problem gambler, then you can get in touch with Gam-Anon, a sister organization to Gamblers Anonymous. Like GA, Gam-Anon provides weekly meetings that can help connect you with others in your predicament and give you the support you need to practice crucial self-care in a difficult time.
Finally, if you would prefer to stay home or keep your support group participation more remote, you can try Gamtalk. Gamtalk is an online forum dedicated to assisting those affected by problem gambling. Like the other two organizations, Gamtalk puts you next to those who are or have been in the same situation as you and can show you that there is a pathway to recovery.
A common last resort for problem gambling, self-exclusion, is not available in Alabama at this time. Self-exclusion allows people to bar themselves from gambling facilities in the area. However, it requires the maintenance of a status list and law enforcement involvement to work. Once you self-exclude, it becomes a crime to enter a gambling facility. Alabama does not provide self-exclusion, which can be a critical last step to save many problem gamblers. Any future gambling expansions might create a greater need for this service.
Types of legal gambling in Alabama
No other section on this page is more subject to change than this one. Alabama is on the cusp of greatly expanding its legal gambling profile. As we’ve mentioned, SB319, an active bill already passed by the Senate, would legalize more types of gambling at once than we can remember in any other state. So, even though the list of legal gambling activities in Alabama is true right now, the list might be growing in a short period of time. Currently, Alabamans can take part in the following types of gambling:
- Tribal casinos
- Pari-mutuel simulcast wagering
- Online horse betting
- Daily fantasy sports
- Electronic bingo
- Charitable bingo and raffles
- Home poker games
We’ve already described the options in Alabama for online horse betting, pari-mutuel simulcast wagering and DFS. We’ll talk about the tribal casinos below. Retail charitable bingo games, raffles and home poker games are fairly self-explanatory, so we won’t belabor the point about how they work. However, the situation with electronic bingo options in Alabama deserves some attention.
In 2003, colorful state Rep. Johnny Ford threw several electronic bingo propositions at the wall before finally getting HB660 to stick. The bill granted the sheriff of Macon County the ability to allow electronic bingo machines inside county lines. Macon County is the home of Alabama’s Victoryland, a then-greyhound track that remains open as one of Alabama’s simulcast facilities to this day. At nearly the same time, Constitutional Amendment 743 secured the same ability for the sheriff in Greene County, which contains the Greenetrack simulcast facility. Other counties did not wait for such formalities and quickly began to allow multiple e-bingo facilities to pop up inside their borders.
Now, electronic bingo machines don’t sound all that harmful at first glance. If players are simply using machines to daub bingo cards, then there doesn’t really seem to be a problem. However, electronic bingo machines are much closer to actual slot machines than anything else. Even though their internal workings are bingo-oriented, they largely act like the kinds of slot machines you’ll find in casinos. As properties in Macon and Greene counties began operating their machines, other counties and locations began to join in on the action, too. As can be expected, lawmakers and law enforcement officials, particularly the state attorney general, had a problem with this.
So, it probably should’ve been no surprise that law enforcement officials were watching these facilities very closely. One false move could lead to a shutdown. For Greenetrack, the problem came the way it did for Al Capone: unpaid taxes. In 2009, the Alabama Department of Revenue accused Greenetrack of owing $76 million in unpaid sales and consumer taxes to the government for its bingo operations in 2004 to 2008. Greenetrack, for its part, has been fighting against the levy ever since. The latest decision came two years ago when a state tax tribunal ruled that Greenetrack was exempt from those kinds of taxes. State Attorney General Steve Marshall almost immediately appealed the decision, and the case continues to rage 12 years after its filing.
However, the various attorneys general of Alabama over the past two decades haven’t been the only opponents of the machines. Then-Gov. Bob Riley appointed an entire task force to combat gambling in Alabama in 2010. For the most part, the move was quite successful and pressured the majority of the e-bingo parlors in the state to close. Both Greenetrack and Victoryland lost their machines in the purges. In addition, Victoryland and its owner, Milton McGregor, found themselves in the crosshairs of both state and federal trouble. McGregor was arrested in 2010 (along with 10 state senators) by investigators with a federal probe on suspicion of conspiracy, bribery and honest services fraud. McGregor was acquitted in 2012 and reopened with new machines shortly afterward. Then, in 2013, Attorney General Luther Strange ordered a raid of Victoryland and the seizure of more than 1,600 machines and $260,000 in cash on hand.
Ultimately, a judge dismissed the raid as illegal in 2015, and Victoryland reopened with some of its machines in 2016. Greenetrack has also placed a new swath of machines again, and you can play electronic bingo at Birmingham Race Course, too.
You can also play electronic bingo at the three tribal casinos in the state. These are located on Poarch Band lands in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka. Obviously, the state attorney general has sued the tribe on principle in the past, saying that slot machines are illegal on state grounds. However, the tribe has stood its ground and prevailed, since the attorney general has no jurisdiction.
Are there casinos in Alabama?
Sorta. There are several venues in the state that call themselves casinos. Some of them are tribal, and some are not. All of them have slot machine-esque devices on site. A few even offer betting on simulcast horse and greyhound races.
However, to be frank, it’s hard to call them pure casinos. They are essentially slot parlors, and a mutant form of those to boot. In fact, technically speaking, they are bingo halls, oddly enough. So, while we’re listing the various casinos in Alabama below, it’s important to understand their limitations. There are no table games or poker rooms in the state. Unless you like to spin the reels or bet the ponies, you’re better off trying your luck in Florida or Mississippi.
One thing to note, however, is that the same tribe owns and operates all three tribal properties. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized Native American tribe in Alabama. In addition to the three casinos, it owns and operates casinos in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida, Aruba and Curaçao. The Pennsylvania location is the former Sands Bethlehem. The PBCI also owns Mobile Greyhound Park in Alabama, one of the state’s simulcast facilities. So, although the tribe’s offerings in Alabama are modest, it is one of the more active groups to expand its ownership beyond the boundaries of its tribal lands.
|Birmingham Race Course Casino||1000 John Rogers Dr, Birmingham, AL 35235||(205) 838-7500||Milton McGregor|
|Greenetrack Simulcast Greyhound & Horse Racing||524 Co Rd 208, Eutaw, AL 35462||(205) 372-9318||Luther Winn|
|VictoryLand||8680 Co Rd 40, Shorter, AL 36075||(334) 727-0540||Milton McGregor|
|Wind Creek Casino & Hotel Atmore||303 Poarch Rd, Atmore, AL 36502||(866) 946-3360||Poarch Band of Creek Indians|
|Wind Creek Casino & Hotel Montgomery||1801 Eddie L Tullis Rd, Montgomery, AL 36117||(866) 946-3360||Poarch Band of Creek Indians|
|Wind Creek Casino & Hotel Wetumpka||100 River Oaks Dr, Wetumpka, AL 36092||(866) 946-3360||Poarch Band of Creek Indians|
Types of games at Alabama casinos
The only type of games at the casinos and racinos in Alabama is electronic bingo. Electronic bingo games use a unique infrastructure to function under federal and state law. When you press the button or pull a lever (if you can find one), you will not be able to tell the difference between what you’re seeing on the screen and what you’d see on a normal slot machine. The difference is occurring behind the scenes, where, instead of actually spinning reels, you’ve been entered into a complex series of bingo games. The exact format and play of these games is always murky, and some casinos take steps to make it deliberately so. However, from your point of view, the result is the same — most of the time, you lose, but you might hit it big.
No other types of games are available inside Alabama state lines. You cannot find table games or poker in the Heart of Dixie, even at the three tribal casinos.
History of gambling in Alabama
Gambling has traditionally been an uncomfortable issue in the state of Alabama. The state’s long history of conservative Judeo-Christian values has created a multi-generational culture of suspicion about games of chance. The few bits of gambling that have made it into law in Alabama are either games considered “safe” by many gambling-hostile states, like charitable games and pari-mutuel betting, or have gone through periods of legal challenge and suspensions, like electronic bingo. All things considered, it’s a minor miracle that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians ever got the state to the negotiating table about a compact. So, the list of key dates below will explore Alabama’s history with gambling, but it’s important to understand that the entries that follow do not create a mosaic of great success.
Alabama unveils a new version of its state constitution as its organizing document. Amid several laws particularly unfavorable to people of color in the state, the legal foundation for the Heart of Dixie proclaims a blanket ban on gambling. Although such a ban is not unusual — many states outlaw gambling and then pass laws as exceptions — its longstanding effect on Alabama law has been particularly strong.
Alabama’s Supreme Court decrees that horse and dog racing are, in fact, legal under the Alabama Constitution and not subject to the prohibitions specified one year earlier. In a quietly hilarious moment, the justices find that since the races are reflections of the animals’ skill, not luck, they are not games of chance. It’s not certain how much skill the court attributes to each dog, but there’s no denying that the Supreme Court of Alabama formally disagrees with the notion of a “lucky dog.”
Bingo becomes legal as a charitable game in Jefferson County thanks to a constitutional amendment. However, even though bingo is one of the tamer forms of gambling, the law goes to the trouble of limiting bingo operators. They can only be open for two sessions per week, no session can be longer than five hours, and they cannot award more than $7,500 in total to patrons. The rest of the money must go to the charity.
Another amendment to the Alabama constitution allows Victoryland Racetrack to install electronic bingo machines onsite. Electronic bingo machines use a bingo game to backstop their operation, but operate more or less like slot machines, at least to the player. Since this amendment, the property (among others) has been subject to numerous raids and shutdowns about this activity. In a bit of a twist, the 2021 bill that would have legalized slot machines in the state, dooming electronic bingo.
Alabama takes an unexpected step forward on gambling when it passes HB361 into law, rendering daily fantasy sports contests legal under state law. The big names of the DFS market, DraftKings and FanDuel, are able to reenter the Heart of Dixie so long as they pay a license fee and 10.5% tax to the state government. The legalization is particularly shocking given that, in 2016, then-Attorney General Luther Strange issued cease-and-desist letters to DraftKings and FanDuel, barring DFS play as illegal gambling.