Sweeping gambling-related legislation — which includes authorization for retail and online sports betting — has finally been unveiled in the Alabama legislature.
Alabama currently has but a few tribal-owned casinos, but there have been recent rumblings that an extensive effort to broaden those gambling offerings was on the way.
The southern state’s 2024 legislative session then began this week, and soon after, Gov. Kay Ivey voiced support for letting voters have another say on expanding gaming in her State of the State address.
Finally, on Thursday, Republican Rep. Chris Blackshear’s House Bills 151 and 152 were read for the first time, getting the legislative process rolling on the two gambling-related pieces of legislation that could drastically reshape wagering in Alabama.
Alabama sports betting bills dropped today (and they do way more than authorize sports betting) pic.twitter.com/R0DKy7dP4A— Geoff Zochodne (@GeoffZochodne) February 8, 2024
H.B. 151 proposes an amendment to the Alabama constitution that, if voters approve it in November, would authorize five “limited” forms of gambling: an official state lottery; “casino-style games” that could only be conducted in person at no more than seven locally approved locations; sports wagering; traditional raffles; and traditional paper bingo.
“All other forms of gaming in the state would be prohibited,” the bill states. However, the legislation adds that lawmakers could authorize new forms of gambling following a recommendation from regulators and if three-fifths of their ranks approve a bill to do so.
The proposed amendment would also create the Alabama Gaming Commission to oversee all the new gaming activity. Moreover, the governor could enter into a new gaming compact agreement with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians regarding gaming on their tribal lands, including sports betting, as well as at a new casino off their lands.
House Bill 152 contains more detail about what expanded gambling in Alabama would look like, as it would implement the constitutional amendment approved by lawmakers and voters, assuming they approve.
That includes licensing both in-person and online sportsbooks in Alabama. Both would be allowed under the legislation, with the former available at casinos and the latter via someone’s phone or computer.
“The commission shall adopt rules prescribing a minimum and maximum number of online sports wagering licenses that may be issued,” H.B. 152 states. “It is the intent of the Legislature that the number of licenses awarded foster a competitive environment.”
Bettors would have to be 21 or older. Sports wagering licensees would be taxed 17% of their net gaming revenues (and would also have to pay a not-yet-set licensing fee), and the money raised would go to a new “Gaming Trust Fund” that could bankroll a variety of health and infrastructure projects.
With all that said and proposed, there’s no guarantee anything will pass or change when it comes to Alabama sports betting.
Southern states have proven tough to crack for legal sports betting advocates, and Alabama has yet to take the plunge despite nearby Mississippi and Tennessee authorizing certain forms of event wagering.
Furthermore, opponents to any gambling expansion in Alabama have already emerged. The Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Policy Institute are two such entities preparing to fight sports betting-related legislation.
“We oppose gambling in all forms,” the Farmers Federation states. “Casino Gaming, State Lottery, Sports Betting, Electronic Gaming and Online Gambling.”
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