Alabama Lawmakers Postpone Meeting on Contentious Gambling Proposal

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The Alabama State Capitol stands in Montgomery, Alabama. Julie Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

A meeting on the gambling package did not happen as planned, but that does not mean the talk is over

Lawmakers postponed a meeting scheduled on a contentious Alabama gambling proposal that has caused a rift between the House and Senate.

Rep. Chris Blackshear, a Republican from Smiths Station, sent a text message to a reporter from the Alabama Reflector. He said that the two legislative bodies are nearing an agreement after the conference committee members held “a number of productive meetings”. The committee had the task of ironing out the differences between the House and Senate regarding the proposal.

Blackshear added, “We plan to continue these dialogues and will convene a public meeting once both parties feel ready to do so.”

Supporters Remain Optimistic a Compromise Will Be Reached

Sen. Greg Albritton from Atmore, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton from Greensboro, and Sen. Garlan Gudger from Cullman represent the Senate on the conference committee. Blackshear, Sam Jones from Mobile, and Rep. Andy Whitt from Harvest represent the House.

Singleton and Albritton have been outspoken supporters of gambling legislation. Whitt and Blackshear led the House in the original legislation.

Whitt expressed doubts and Albritton made cautious comments, highlighting the complexities of the negotiations, before the meeting was delayed. Albritton emphasized that, although they’ve made progress, they still have a lot of work to do within a limited timeframe.

Albritton confirmed that the bill is still in play and that lawmakers are close to an agreement, but he didn’t provide any specifics. He said, “We still have five days, right? We just have a long way to go,”

What Each Alabama Gambling Plan Calls For

Legislation that could introduce the state’s first commercial casinos, regulated online sportsbooks, historic horse racing terminals, and a government-run lottery is on the table for consideration by policymakers. Alabama is one of a handful of US states that currently lack these gaming offerings.

In February, the House passed its version, which included a lottery, authorized up to seven casinos and sports betting throughout the state, and directed the governor to enter a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. This federally recognized tribe operates casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka.

Last month, the Senate passed its version, which removed everything except the compact and the lottery. The House and Senate disagree over the distribution of gambling money and the timing of an election on the issue.

No proposal includes legal real-money online casino gaming

Alabama Hoping to Get Something Done in 2024

The Supreme Court struck down the federal sports wagering ban in May 2018. Since then, more than three dozen states have legalized sportsbooks. Several states have also approved online casino gaming or launched brick-and-mortar casinos.

However, it’s been a tougher road for the remaining holdouts against gambling expansion.

Alabama is on a short list of states hoping to legalize sports wagering in 2024. That list includes Georgia, Minnesota and Missouri. However, debates about sportsbook asset allocation, tax revenue distribution, and ongoing opposition to gambling in statehouses nationwide have stalled their efforts.

We’ll wait to see when the discussion among Alabama lawmakers resumes.