Alabama Governor To Ponder Senate’s Revised Gambling Plan

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey listens to former U.S. President Donald Trump speak during the Alabama Republican Party’s 2023 Summer meeting in Montgomery, Alabama. Julie Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey says she wants to take a closer look at the gambling legislation that the Senate revised. She says she wants to ensure that it is advantageous for all parties involved, including Alabama sports betting customers.

Alabama’s House-Senate Clash

House Bill 151 and House Bill 152, initiated by Rep. Chris Blackshear, aimed to establish a state lottery and gambling commission, authorize casino gaming and sports betting at seven sites, and mandate Gov. Kay Ivey to form an agreement with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who run casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka.

The Senate’s version lacks provisions for sports betting, online gambling, and the establishment of non-PCI new casinos, unlike the House’s version.

It also mandates that the Legislature must create a special police unit in the Alabama Gambling Commission. This unit will watch over lottery games and other gambling activities and work to stop illegal gambling.

Money Distribution Also Changed

The Senate also changed how the money in the bill would be divided. Originally, lottery earnings would have gone to education programs such as scholarships for college. Casino and sports betting profits would have funded mental health and rural health programs, resembling Medicaid expansion. With these rules, the Legislature could have decided how to spend the money within those areas.

The Senate not only took out the “rural health” reference, but it decided that the money should be split three ways: one part for education, one part for the state’s main budget (the General Fund), and one part for fixing and building roads and bridges.

How Did The Vote Go?

HB 151, the constitutional amendment legalizing gambling, passed with a 22-11 vote. A coalition of seven Democrats and 15 Republicans endorsed it. Notably, all 11 opposing votes were from Republicans. Senators Merika Coleman (D-Pleasant Grove) and Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) were not recorded during the voting process.

Similarly, HB 152, the accompanying enabling legislation delineating enforcement, taxation, and revenue distribution mechanisms, mirrored the same 22-11 outcome, with an identical partisan division.

“I am pleased the Senate advanced these bills and that the legislative process will continue. I will be thoroughly reviewing the latest versions to ensure what goes to the people is a good deal for the state,” Ivey told 1819 News.

What’s Next for Alabama’s Gambling Legislation?

Alabama is one of just five states in the US without a lottery. The people of Alabama last said no to a lottery in 1999. The state has also been hesitant to allow other kinds of gambling like betting on horse races and bingo, which are only allowed in certain places and under strict rules.

Governor Ivey had already indicated her support for the gambling bill approved by the House. Given the differences between this bill and the amendment passed by the House in February, the Senate’s version will be sent back to the House for further review. 

The discussion will resume after both legislative bodies come back from their spring break.