- The Alabama Senate Defeated a Proposed Gambling Expansion
- Bill Came Up Two Votes Shy of Needed Support
- Legislators May Now Attempt a More Limited Lottery Bill
A comprehensive attempt at Alabama gambling expansion failed to pass the state Senate. Currently, Alabama gambling operates in a gray area. Each county is allowed to regulate charitable gaming, but there is still no state lottery. There are a few limited tribal casinos. Some counties permit electronic bingo machines. However, the state has repeatedly tried to shut them down, arguing they are nothing more than slot parlors.
In an attempt to bring order to this gambling chaos, the legislature debated authorizing a constitutional amendment.
Proposed Alabama Gambling Expansion Comes up Two Votes Short
An Alabama gambling expansion would require a constitutional amendment. The state currently has the world’s most amended constitution, with 948 revisions as of 2020. So, getting the required two-thirds support of both state houses is anything but impossible.
Unfortunately for gambling enthusiasts, the state Senate failed to muster the required 21 votes. In a 19-13 defeat, a bill that would have put casinos, sports betting, and a lottery to the voters died. In a chamber where 27 of the 35 members are Republican, the GOP caucus split in half. Thirteen Republican senators voted against the measure, while all Democrats supported its passage.
The deeply conservative southern state will now fall further behind its neighbors. Tennessee offers mobile sports wagering, while Mississippi has full-service casino resorts. Even gambling averse Georgia is inching closer to gaming liberalization.
The Alabama Gambling Bill Kept Expanding
The constitution amendment was proposed by Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) as SB 214. The sponsor was justifiably upset at coming so close. His original version called for five casinos in the Yellowhammer state. They would have built upon four existing greyhound race tracks that offer pari-mutuel wagering. The fifth location would be reserved for a tribal casino.
However, in an attempt to win more of his Republican colleagues to his side, Marsh repeatedly amended the proposal. First, a sixth proposed casino would be located in Houston County. Then, a seventh was added for Lowndes County. By giving out more casinos, the bill would spread its benefits to more corners of the state. However, twisting legislative arms with local economic stimulants failed.
Amendment Would Have Allowed Sports Betting
Sen. Marsh’s SB 214 would have also regulated sports betting in Alabama. The comprehensive Alabama gambling expansion would have brought in an estimated additional $500 million annually. These funds would be raised through a 20% tax on sports betting and casino revenue as well as a new state lottery.
The funds raised at casinos would have been used to modernize rural broadband access in Alabama. Meanwhile, lottery revenue was earmarked for college scholarship. Rural health services would have also benefited from the state’s sports betting handle.
An Alabama Lottery Expansion Might Still Happen
In the wake of the Alabama gambling expansion failing, some legislators still support a state lottery. The Senate majority leader, Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) wants a constitutional amendment allowing a stand-alone lottery. Sen. Scofield did not vote in favor of SB 214. He believes a lottery proposal will pass the Senate before mid-May. Republicans have already introduced two lottery bills after the failure of comprehensive reform.
Whether or not Alabama stops being one of five states without a lottery, its residents are already gambling. For those that want to bet from their homes, rely on our reviews of the best online sportsbooks, casinos, and poker sites.