Alabama Lottery, Casino and Sports Betting Plan May Be on Thin Ice

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The entrance to the Alabama riverfront in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, where the riverboat The Harriott remains docked on August 8, 2023. Julie Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

It’s been a little more than a week since the Alabama House of Representatives approved a gaming package to legalize commercial casinos and a state-run lottery plus sports betting. However, the plan’s biggest supporter isn’t sure he has the backing to push them through.

Let’s go through the latest efforts regarding this bill and assess the current landscape for top-rated online sportsbooks.

Counting Votes

Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, said the Republicans –who have 27 out of 35 seats in the Senate– talked about the bills and he’s getting the sense that the plan won’t make it through to the next round.

Albritton said he has to convince some senators to vote for the bills. He needs 21 votes to change the state constitution, which is three-fifths of the Senate. Albritton also said he thinks more than half of the Senate likes the plan.

The House already passed the constitutional amendment, HB151. Additionally, the House approved the companion bill, HB152, that details some specifics about how the constitutional amendment would be implemented.

What Would a “Yes” Vote Change in Alabama?

One bill would change the state constitution. The other bill would make new laws.

The bills would let Alabama have a state lottery and seven casinos. Most casinos would be in places that already have some kind of gambling. The bills would also let people bet on sports. They would ask Gov. Kay Ivey to make a deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The tribe runs casinos in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka.

Supporters say the combination of bills would create one clear law that would replace the piecemeal plan that is currently in place.

The bills would also create the Alabama Gaming Commission to check and control the casinos and sports betting. The commission would have a police force that could keep people from using unregulated offshore betting sites. They say illegal gambling hurts people and does not help the state.

Where Would the Money Go?

Alabama would use the money from the lottery to pay for education programs. For example, the state could give scholarships to students or let them take college classes in high school.

The state could use the money from the casinos and sports betting for anything. The bill says the state could spend it on mental health services and a “rural health” program. This program would help more people get health insurance. Lawmakers could decide how to spend the money.

Blackshear told a House committee last week that the bills could generate as much as $1.2 billion for the state.

What’s Next for the Sports Betting, Lottery and Casino Bills?

The bills aren’t dead yet.

Tuesday, February 27, marks the seventh meeting day of the legislative session, which could extend up to 30 meeting days across 15 weeks.

If it gets the necessary votes, Albritton said the next step will be consideration in the Senate Tourism Committee. If lawmakers approve the constitutional amendment, it will be placed on the November ballot for voter consideration.

Alabama voters have not had an opportunity to weigh in on a lottery proposal since 1999. Now supporters of the latest bills hope their next opportunity doesn’t die a quick death.