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Alabama Senate Approves Gambling Bills; They Now Head Back To House

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on March 8, 2024 - Last Updated on April 4, 2024
Lawmakers At The Alabama Statehouse

The Alabama Senate on March 6 advanced a two-bill gambling proposal to create a state lottery and allow electronic wagering machines at several dog tracks and other locations in the state. But members did it after making several changes to the legislation.

The first bill (HB 151), a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing gambling, passed in a vote of 22-11, from the required 21 votes. In a 23-10 vote, the Senate passed the companion bill (HB 152), which would establish the Gambling Proceeds Fund in the State Treasury to receive all net revenues of the lottery.

Last month, the Alabama House voted to legalize sports betting, casinos, and lottery, 70-32 (HB 151) and 67- 31- 1 (HB 152). Sponsored by Rep. Chris Blackshear, both bills created a lottery and a state gambling commission, allowing casino gaming and sports wagering at seven locations in the state.

The AL Senate version declined sports betting and casinos but kept the lottery and compact language. The bill would only allow pari-mutuel betting and historic horse racing machines across seven locations.

The proposal does call for Gov. Kay Ivey to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, allowing the tribes to offer casinos on tribal lands in Atmore, Wetumpka, and Montgomery.

Alabama gambling legislation returns to the House of Representatives

With substantial changes in place, the bill must now head back to the Alabama House, where lawmakers could agree with the edits or send the bill to a conference committee. Voters would have a final say in an election.

Sen. Greg Albritton, the sponsor of the legislation and a long-time proponent of gambling legislation, opened the debate during a tense Senate session, emphasizing that the Legislature has tried to effectively regulate gambling for decades. According to an article by AL.com, Albritton said:

“It’s true of any legislation; it’s trying to find what we can pass. 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.”

The Alabama Gambling Control Act would set up a new nine-member Alabama Gambling Commission to control the lottery and the pari-mutuel betting formations.

The Senate plan requires the governor to negotiate an agreement with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The compact could pave the way for the tribe to operate full-fledged casinos with table games at its three sites in the state.

The proposal would allow seven locations in total. These would include the state’s four dog tracks, with a special kind of electronic gambling machines named “historical racing computerized machines” that allow players to bet on replays of horse races. Some of these machines look like slot machines.

The seven sites would include the state’s four dog tracks located in:

  • Greene
  • Jefferson
  • Macon
  • Mobile counties

They could also be located at sites in:

  • Houston
  • Lowndes
  • An additional site in Greene County

After 25 years, Alabama gambling proposal has a chance to get before voters

Supporters are trying to get enough legislative support to get the matter before voters for the first time in 25 years. Alabama is one of the few states without a lottery. The last time the gambling issue went before voters was in 1999, when Gov. Don Siegelman’s lottery proposal was rejected.

If the Senate proposal gets approval from both chambers of the Alabama Legislature, it would go on a ballot for voters to approve on Sept. 10.

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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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