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Alabama’s Gambling Expansion Plans May Have Hit a Snag

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Alabama's dream of expanding its gambling landscape has hit a snag as Senator Greg Albritton, the bill's sponsor, admitted it lacks sufficient support within the Senate. Despite holding a majority with 27 out of 35 seats, the Republican caucus falls short of the 21 votes needed to pass the constitutional amendment authorizing a lottery, casinos, and legal sports betting.

Light Dims on Alabama Gambling Expansion

Albritton remains cautiously optimistic, aiming to sway undecided senators before the legislative session concludes in 15 weeks. While he believes a majority ultimately supports the plan, convincing them requires navigating a complex political landscape.

Related: Alabama Lawmakers Pushing for Gambling Reforms

The House of Representatives, however, offered smoother sailing, easily passing the bill with a comfortable margin. They even approved a companion bill detailing the implementation specifics, setting the stage for potential voter approval in November. This would mark the state's first such referendum since 1999, placing the ultimate decision in the hands of the public.

The proposed amendment envisions a significant shake-up, potentially allowing up to ten casinos to operate. Seven state-licensed facilities would be scattered across Birmingham, Mobile County, Macon County, Greene County, Lowndes County and Houston County. The remaining three would be tribal casinos operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, including one new casino and expanded offerings at their existing Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery locations (subject to a negotiated compact with the governor).

New Lottery Revenue at Risk

Beyond casinos, a state-run lottery with multi-state participation is part of the plan. Education would receive its designated share of the lottery revenue, while casino and sports betting proceeds would be allocated to other areas.

Proponents see this vote as a crucial step towards streamlining a patchwork of regulations into a comprehensive law. They champion the Alabama Gaming Commission, tasked with licensing and regulation, as a tool to combat widespread illegal gambling, which they argue harms the state without offering any benefits.

Financial projections paint a potentially lucrative picture, estimating annual net revenues of $900 million for Alabama if the legislation passes. However, with opposition simmering in the Senate, the future of gambling expansion remains uncertain.

The coming weeks promise heated debate as both sides make their cases, leaving the ultimate decision to the voters in November. Whether Alabama embraces this expansion or maintains its current restrictions will depend on the outcome of this legislative battle.

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