Alabama Legislators Adopting New Strategy to Solve an Old Problem 

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The Alabama State Capital building in Montgomery Alabama is seen. (Photo by Seth HERALD / AFP).

Illegal gambling in Alabama has prompted some state legislators to crusade against it by suggesting a gambling commission should be formed to battle the onslaught of black-market operators. However, some believe there is an ulterior motive involving bringing regulated gambling to sweet home Alabama.

Illegal Gambling Solution

There are plenty of pro-gambling legislators in Alabama but many are reluctant to support the cause unless they believe the political winds have shifted in their favor. This is the Deep South and its conservative, evangelical, bloc is a powerful political constituency, which means advocating for gambling of any kind can mean a defeat at the voting booths the next time an election rolls around.

But that hasn’t stopped House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter and Representative Andy Whitt from challenging the status quo. Despite Alabama being one of only five states without a lottery, the two lawmakers have been lobbying to get another lucrative tax revenue stream into the state, and the taxes generated from gambling would do exactly that.

Although gambling petitions have died swift deaths in the past in Alabama, this time around a different tact is being taken. A regulatory body established to combat illegal gambling is the newest idea conceived by pro-gambling legislators. They are stating that a gaming commission is needed to explore the illegal gambling problem currently vexing the God-fearing state of Alabama.

Regulating the Gaming Industry

However, a gaming commission is also a regulatory body that normally precedes regulating legal gambling as it is entrusted with, among other things, vetting the sports betting platforms and gaming companies that may want to establish a mobile and/or retail gaming presence in the marketplace.

Earlier this month Speaker Ledbetter said as much when he spoke about the need for a gaming commission and stated, “We have to fix it. We have to regulate it. It’s already here.”

He added, “It’s no longer about gaming, but fixing the problem we got. I think the fact of the matter is we’ll reduce gambling tremendously if we pass something to regulate.”

Regulating sports betting, casino gambling, or creating a state lottery is more about generating additional tax streams than it is about stemming the tide of illegal gambling. But bringing any form of gambling to Alabama will do both, as it will diminish illegal gambling and fund a myriad of social programs for the good of the state’s residents. It has been 24 years since a gambling measure of any kind went in front of the voters and it appears as though it is time to do it again according to Representative Whitt.

Whitt was quoted as saying the state “is saturated with all forms of illegal gambling” that includes scratch-off games and slot machines.

Circumventing the Law

The representative also believes the thinly veiled attempts to circumvent the law are akin to organized crime.

“When you see the similarities of these machines and their so-called ‘legal statement’ stickers, this only confirms to me that this is coordinated and is organized crime,” Whitt said. “Myself, along with other colleagues, have witnessed this firsthand and it was simply appalling.”

Establishing a lottery might be the first place to start as estimates are that it would produce $200 million to $300 million for the state. As it is now, residents are crossing state lines to buy a lottery ticket in neighboring Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida, fattening those states’ tax coffers but doing nothing for Alabama.

“The thing about it is everyone around us has got it,” Speaker Ledbetter said. “We are losing money for our kids.”

Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor this story and update our readers as events unfold.