Gambling Bills Pass Alabama House

The Alabama House passed two gambling bills. One is a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling, lottery and sports betting. It would require a voter referendum in November. The other details casino and lottery operations. The bills now go to the Senate.

Gambling Bills Pass Alabama House

The Alabama House of Representatives recently approved two gambling bills. Lawmakers voted 70-32 to approve HB 151, a constitutional amendment that would legalize casino gambling, a lottery, sports betting, bingo and raffles; if it’s passed by the Senate, a voter referendum would be held in November. Enabling legislation, HB 152, detailing how a lottery and casinos would operate, passed 67-31.

Both bills now will go to the Senate. Lawmakers haven’t passed a lottery bill since 1999, which voters rejected.

After the votes, House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter said, “It’s been 25 years since the people of Alabama have been able to give their voice. Today I think the members worked together and represented their districts to give the people a voice.”

According to, the sponsor of the legislation, state Rep. Chris Blackshear, said, “The last time the citizens in Alabama got to vote on any type of gaming in this state we were all worried about what would happen at the stroke of midnight in the year 2000, that Y2K was going to send us back to the stone age.

“I think personally, it’s a great day for the state of Alabama and finally, at least from the House perspective, we heard you loud and clear from the polling and we’re giving the citizens a right to decide what they want in this state when it relates to gaming.”

The proposal taxes gaming revenue at 24 percent and sports betting at 17 percent. According to the fiscal note prepared by the Legislative Services Agency, casinos could generate up to $492 million in annual net revenue, a lottery could produce up to $379 million and sports betting at casinos or online could bring in a total of up to $41 million.

The legislation would create the Alabama Gaming Commission with its own law-enforcement division. It would authorize up to seven casino licenses: Six would be located in Birmingham, Mobile County, Macon County, Greene County, Lowndes County and Houston County.

The seventh casino would be operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in northeast Alabama, if the tribe and the state can negotiate a gaming compact.

According to legislative forecasts, the estimated annual revenue from a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would be $300 million. The tribe currently operates casinos in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery.

Each new casino would require approval from its local government, either by a resolution passed by a city council or county commission or through a voter referendum.

HB152 also would establish the Alabama Lottery Corporation to run the state lottery, mini lotteries and instant and scratch-off games. In addition, the corporation would establish a statewide network of lottery retailers. Players must be 18 years or older to buy tickets. Blackshear also noted the legislation includes a provision allowing sports venues that attract 60,000 or more attendees to get a 3-day, temporary license in order to offer wagering during an event.

Lottery revenue would go to education plus establishing problem gaming treatment and services. The first $300 million of casino and sports betting revenue would go to the General Fund Budget Reserve, then 95 percent would go to the Gaming Trust Fund for Alabama Gaming Commission expenses.

After the vote, Governor Kay Ivey issued a statement: “I have long said the people of Alabama deserve to have another say on gaming, and today’s passage of HB151 and HB152 in the House is an important step forward and very significant, as this has not been accomplished by the House in years. The proposal passed by the House will clean up and crack down on the rampant illegal gambling and will give Alabamians the opportunity to have their say on regulated, limited forms of gaming.

“This is a tough, complex issue, and I commend Rep. Chris Blackshear, Rep. Andy Whitt and House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter for their leadership. I also commend each House member who voted today to limit, regulate and tax gaming and lottery activities in Alabama. I will remain engaged as this legislation moves to the Senate. In their current form, these bills will continue to have my support.”

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, however, has expressed concerns about the proposed legislation. In a statement to ABC 33/40 television, PCI Tribal Council Vice Chair Robbie McGhee said, “While we remain hopeful that lawmakers will pass legislation that harnesses the full power of gaming for the benefit of all Alabamians, we cannot support this legislation in its current form. The current legislation stymies our ability to operate competitive gaming enterprises based on our proven business model.”

McGhee continued, “We respect Governor Ivey and leaders in the House and Senate working on a plan to give the people of Alabama the right to vote on this issue. Which is why we should all work together to ensure the best solution is presented for Alabama businesses and is brought to Alabamians for consideration. We remain committed to continuing to work with members of the House and Senate as this process continues to move forward.”

McGhee also said the legislation offers no assurance a compact would be approved, no specific timeline for compact negotiation and no special consideration for Alabama-based businesses applying for a license.