Alabama’s Bid To Legalize Gambling Fizzles Out in State Senate

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The Alabama State Capitol stands on May 15, 2019 in Montgomery, Alabama. Julie Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

The legislative session ended without a final vote on the gambling bill in Alabama, leaving the issue unresolved for another year.

Lawmakers adjourned the legislative session without approving the bill, leaving many  Alabamians frustrated because they will miss out once again on the opportunity to vote on gambling in the state.

The bill had passed in the House earlier in the session, but a scaled-back version failed by one vote in the Senate, resulting in a 25-year stalemate on the issue. The last time gaming of any kind was on a ballot in Alabama was 1999, and it was defeated in a statewide vote.

Gov. Kay Ivey expressed disappointment, emphasizing that she wanted people to have a chance to vote on the matter. However, without an agreement from lawmakers, a special session did not appear worthwhile.

“There was a lot of effort to try to make it work,” Republican House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter told The Associated Press. “I think the people want a chance to vote. I hear that everywhere I go.”

What the Alabama Gambling Bill Would Have Allowed

The bill approved by the House would have allowed a lottery, sports betting, and up to 10 casinos with slot machines and table games. However, the Senate approved a stricter version that only included a lottery and allowed dog tracks and other sites to have machines where players can bet on replays of horse races. 

The Senate hesitated to approve slot machines or video poker. It approved a stricter version that included only a lottery and allowed dog tracks and other sites to have machines for betting on horse race replays. It included a mandate for the governor to negotiate a gambling compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI). 

A conference committee proposed a compromise, authorizing a statewide lottery and slot machines at seven locations in the state, but it did not receive approval in the Senate.

Under the proposed bills, the Alabama educational lottery would have operated exclusively through paper-based systems, and any expansion beyond the seven designated sites would have required new legislation approved by both legislative bodies and validated by the state’s citizens through voting.

 But that also did not win approval in the Senate despite approval in the House.

What’s Next for a Gambling Bill in Alabama?

Fun fact: Although traditional casino gambling is not legal in the state, Alabama’s state capital, Montgomery, is somewhat of a hotbed for gambling. Three out of the four casinos in the entire state are located within 22 miles of downtown Montgomery.

So, while Alabamians eagerly await the legalization of gambling in the Heart of Dixie, it’s evident that support is steadily increasing. Just like the entire state of Alabama, we’ll patiently wait until next year to see how it all unfolds once again.

Remember, patience is key—just like waiting for the next deal at the poker table.