- The bill would allow for a state lottery, sports betting, eight casinos, and smaller gaming sites.
- Bill sponsor Senator Greg Albritton argues the people of Alabama have wanted a say in the matter for years.
- Opponents argue the change gives licensing to a few powerful operators and its unfair to others who might want in on the industry.
Lottery and casino legislation in Alabama quickly moved through the Senate Tourism Committee, despite major pushback from opponents.
The committee voted and approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize several gambling options in the state, including the lottery and casinos.
Pushing Forward for Ballot Vote
The amendment would allow Alabama to offer a lottery along with the creation of eighth full casinos featuring both slots and table games. Sports betting is also in the mix along with two smaller facilities that will offer 300 slots or less.
The sponsor of the proposal is Senator Greg Albritton. During the recent vote, Albritton stated that it is time for Alabama to talk about gambling. He says that his measure will give the residents the lottery that they have been asking for along with grabbing control of gambling by allowing casino sites, though the number of options is limited.
If the proposal is able to be approved, citizens of Alabama would vote on the gambling changes this November. The senator feels that Alabamians want a chance to have their say on the matter. And while there is support for the measure, there is also pushback.
Many opponents were on hand to talk about why the proposal shouldn’t be approved. Those against the bill feel that it is unfair to allow a few select operators offer gaming, i.e., the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and dog tracks.
Representative Kelvin Lawrence stated that Legislature should not be picking the winners or losers of licensing. According to Lawrence, the new facilities would close an existing facility in his county due to limiting the number of machines it can offer. Those in attendance that are in opposition of the proposal were either long-time opponents of gambling legalization or representatives of bingo operations that would close due to the new gambling options.
Competitive Bidding Process
The constitutional amendment proposal allows casinos to be created at four existing dog tracks in the state. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians would also have access to a license its three tribal sites, plus one new location.
The track locations will compete in a bidding process, but track owners will have the opportunity to make a final bid for licensing. Satellite casinos are also on the table, but only two are allowed, one in Lowndes and one Houston counties.
During the committee meeting, a lobbyist for a gaming operation in Greene County, said that the bid process in the measure is rigged because it gives the current owner a chance to offer one dollar more over the winning bid to obtain the license.
This fact could be the reason the proposal does not move forward, or perhaps, lawmakers will change the wording to appease those who are against the measure. The proposal requires a 3/5 majority among lawmakers and majority vote among the state voters for approval.
Del Marsh, the Tourism Committee Chairman, is urging the House to take up the bill if it gains approval from the full Senate. He says the issue is the most asked about one when he goes home to Anniston, Alabama.