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Alabama Lawmakers Approve Gambling Expansion Bills

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A legislative committee in Alabama has given the green light to a gambling proposal that would allow a lottery, as well as sports betting and casinos across the state. The Alabama House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved the legislation on Wednesday, setting the stage for a crucial vote in the House of Representatives today.

More Hurdles to Jump

If the proposal survives, Alabama voters will decide its fate in the November general election. The last time a gambling measure appeared before them, a recommended lottery in 1999, they shot it down.

Related: Alabama Lawmakers Pushing for Gambling Reforms

The proposal would allow for up to 10 casino sites, including tribal sites operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, to offer table games and slots. It would also establish a lottery and permit retail and online sports betting.

The committee approved the bills after about 30 minutes of debate on Wednesday. There was only one “no” vote, which came from Representative Allen Treadaway. He expressed concerns about enforcement and the fairness of the licensing process.

The legislation proposes the creation of the Alabama Gaming Commission, a new gaming regulator that would issue licenses for seven casinos (three would be automatically approved for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians). Six of those licenses are county-specific, and the tenth would be contingent upon a negotiated compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. A tender would be held for the license approvals.

No Clear Winner

The bill, which includes an amendment to the state constitution, needs 63 votes to win approval in the 105-member House of Representatives. Representative Steve Clouse expects the vote to be "very close." He highlighted the fact that many Alabamians currently go out of state to buy lottery tickets, resulting in lost revenue for Alabama.

The Legislative Services Agency estimated that taxes generated from the new gambling segments could reach as much as $912 million in annual revenue. This would be directed to two new state-managed funds. While the legislation specifies some uses, such as higher education scholarships, it doesn’t guarantee funding specifics.

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who led the state when the lottery vote appeared on the ballot almost 25 years ago, doesn’t support the language in the new bill. He believes the lack of detailed language on how the government would spend the revenue it receives isn’t in the best interest of Alabamians.

The gambling proposal in Alabama has sparked a contentious debate, with supporters arguing that it would generate much-needed revenue for the state. On the other side of the debate, opponents have expressed concerns about the social and economic impacts of expanded gambling. The fate of the proposal now rests in the hands of the state Legislature and, ultimately, the voters of Alabama.

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