Alabama Poised to Give Sports Betting Legislation Another Try

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A general view of the opening kickoff during the CFP Semifinal Rose Bowl Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2024 in Pasadena, California. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

Alabama legislators have tried to pass online sports betting legislation in the past but each time the bills have died. However, the newest iteration appears to have more support than ever and, if all goes well, Alabama voters will decide for themselves in November.

Let’s explore this fresh opportunity and assess the implications for online sportsbooks.

Here We Go Again

Alabama is one of the few states that doesn’t even have a lottery, let alone sports betting. However, that doesn’t mean the Yellowhammer State legislators haven’t tried.

“What are the chances? I’ve done several of these, particularly lottery bills, I don’t know why I keep doing them,” said Sen. Jim McClendon, one of the main sponsors of the package. “This has a possibility; it’s definitely advanced this far. We will know Thursday night.”

The quote above is from Senator Jim McClendon, which was from three years ago and all efforts to bring gambling of some sort have been fruitless.

Dual Bills

However, there are now two sports betting bills in the House. One would bring land-based casinos, a lottery, as well as retail and mobile sports betting to the Heart of Dixie; while the other is a proposed state amendment to the state constitution to allow gambling. If the latter is approved, it would preclude the need to bring sports betting to the voters in November, as approval in the House and Senate would be enough to get the legislation to pass.

As it stands, a 60% majority is needed in the House and Senate before the question of sports betting would go before the voters.

There are other forces at work this time around.

Nothing gets legislators to act like watching tax dollars flow to a neighboring state. Speaking of which, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi (retail only) all have sports betting while Georgia is considering it. And it is no secret that Alabama residents are crossing state lines to bet with those next-door neighbors and filling their tax coffers while Alabama remains without that revenue stream.

What Are the Chances?

Lawmakers are still combing through the 143-page bill to bring gambling to Alabama. However, when asked about support for the bill, House Speaker Pro Tempore Chris Pringle said, “It’s 50-50 now. We’ve lost a few and gained a few.”

If approved in committee, the bills could be ready for a House vote as early as this week. Republican Rep. Chip Brown of Hollingers Island said he supports the proposal, stating, “We haven’t had a vote since 1999. I hear it from my constituents … that they want the ability to vote on gaming.”

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels said Democratic lawmakers are still in the process of reading the proposed bills but that the responses have “for the most part been pretty positive” despite some lawmakers voicing concerns.

As for enforcement, should the triumvirate of casinos, sports betting and a lottery be passed, a newly-created Alabama Gaming Commission would be comprised of a nine-member board that would be appointed by either the governor or legislative leaders. The commission would regulate the industry and issue licenses to the casinos and sports betting operations while it would also have a Gaming Enforcement Division.

As for the lottery, a seven-member board appointed by the governor would oversee what would be called the Alabama Lottery Corporation.