Alabama Governor Kay Ivey Orders Study of Gambling Expansion

Only a handful of states offer basically no form of gambling. In that small group lies the highly conservative state of Alabama. For decades, there has been talk of expanding to offer lottery gaming but for now, the state has been unable to legalize any changes to the gambling landscape. Some lawmakers play the religion card and say gambling is bad, while others just don’t want to get involved due to their voter base. While it may be a long-shot for any type of gambling to come to the region, Governor Kay Ivey has requested a group be created to study what would happen if the state decided to branch out.

Will Changes Come to the Restrictive State?

Alabama is considered one of the most conservative in the US, when it comes to several topics, including gambling. There are minimal options for land-based gaming, basically a bingo parlor here and there and a tribal operated casino provided by Wind Creek. The state is one of only five that does not offer the lottery.

Nearby though, other states are moving forward with gaming options and this seems to have lawmakers in Alabama thinking. For years, gamblers have traveled to nearby Mississippi to enjoy casino gaming and Tennessee for the lottery. Now, Tennessee and Mississippi both offer sports betting and Georgia is considering casinos. If Alabama does not make changes soon, it will mean millions will leave the state to neighboring regions where gaming is legalized.

Governor Kay Ivey seems to be at least open to the idea, so she has appointed a team with 12 individuals who will study an expansion of gambling. Based on Executive Order 719, signed earlier this month, the Study Group for Gambling Policy was created.

The group is created from volunteers and is supposed to be comprised of people who make up several sectors of the state. The group must present a final report by the end of the year to lawmakers, the governor and the public of their findings.

Tribal Attempt at Expanded Gambling

In a push to see the state expand the gambling industry, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians created a proposal and ad campaign for casino gaming. The idea is very detailed but does not seem to have legal support, at least not yet.

A week before the study order was signed by Governor Ivey, she told the tribal group, do not send any gambling related legislation or proposals to her until the study was finished. So, despite the fact that a study must take place, it is a good sign that at least such proposals could be considered if the study turns out to be fruitful.

While the conservative lawmakers seem to be in agreement with the study, one legislator does not understand why the lottery cannot move forward. Representative Steve Clouse was finishing up a lottery bill when he found out about the study. Now any legislation will be delayed until next year.

According to Clouse, he does not see the need to study the lottery as 45 other states have studied it and they offer the gaming service.

Once the study is complete, it will be interesting to see the findings. Will the monetary outcome for the state along with job creation be enough for lawmakers and voters to move past moral or religious beliefs? Or, will Alabama be back in the same boat and continue to avoid passing any type of gambling legislation as other neighboring states continue to progress?

Rebecca Kont
Rebecca Kont

Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.