After many ups and downs, the possibility of a 2021 Alabama gambling expansion ended with finger pointing between lawmakers. The state – one of five without a lottery – was on the brink of putting the lottery issue and nine new casinos before voters. The State Senate passed a series of bills creating a constitutional amendment. However, despite the support of the Governor, bipartisan consensus collapsed at the last minute in the House. Now, attention turns to why Alabama continues to lag its neighbors in gambling laws.

Casino Locations Became Roadblock

Due to the unique nature of Alabama politics, Republicans needed Democratic support for any potential gambling expansion. Because a faction of Republican lawmakers refused to back any gambling bill, the GOP supermajority relied on bipartisan compromise. As a potential constitutional amendment, the measure required support from three-fifths of Representatives. Through the Senate, the two parties navigated working together. However, it all fell apart in the lower chamber.

lottery balls flying out of selection cage
Alabama is one of five states without a lottery.

The bills would have created an Alabama lottery and allowed nine full-service casinos throughout the Yellowhammer State. Despite clearing the Senate, Representatives bickered over the location of the potential casinos. A particular issue was whether established bingo parlors in Greene and Lowndes Counties would need to close.

Politicians from the two rural counties did not understand why their constituents needed to lose so others could win. Specifically, Lowndes County was not earmarked as one of the nine new casino locations. Without its bingo parlor, the gambling expansion bill would actually contract betting options in the county.

Supporters of the casino bill then accused Republican leadership of a bait-and-switch.

Only Lottery Included in Last Ditch Alabama Gambling Expansion

Republican sponsors of the casino and lottery bill accused Democrats of continually asking for more concessions. Even after the Senate cleared the amendment, the location of casinos remained a sticking point. However, when it became clear amendments were forcing their own members to reconsider, the GOP pulled the comprehensive bill.

casino dealer with hands folded at craps table
Table games are currently not allowed in Alabama.

Instead, leadership attempted to introduce a standalone lottery authorization. Some Democrats appeared to believe this was the Republican plan all along. The lottery bill is much more popular and less contentious than wide ranging reform including casinos. The minority party felt like they were dealt a loaded hand.

However, the attempted lottery bill backfired. Governor Kay Ivey has made her preference for thorough reform clear. Other Republicans did not approve of trying to rush a bill they did not feel had been fully aired. Therefore, the House failed to pass any gambling bill.

There remains one last day in the 2021 Alabama legislative session. May 17 is the final chance the House can reach a compromise amongst the various factions. Any new bill would then need to quickly pass the Senate. Alabama residents may still need “to drive to Georgia to buy a dadgum lottery ticket.” At least until the next legislature meets.

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virginia and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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