For decades, residents of Alabama have wished for some form of gambling. The state is one of only a handful that does not have a lottery and offers little to no gambling options period. Last year, consideration was given to the industry, with Governor Kay Ivey even instituting a study on the matter. However, no legislative effort was able to move forward. Representative John Rogers is now ready to try in 2021, having pre-filed legislation this week.
House Bill 199
The legislation was filed earlier this week, before the state is back in session today. House Bill 199 would amend the state constitution in section 65 to allow a state lottery. Revenue from the lottery would be used in three different ways.
A total of 40% would go towards the education budget. An additional 40% would be placed in a general fund. The 20% that remains would go towards the Department of Corrections in the state. Each of these categories is lacking funds in Alabama.
Rogers is a strong supporter of gambling in his home state. He has served since 1982 and has long tried to see options legalized. Along with the lottery bill, Rogers has plans to introduce additional legislation involving more gambling like sports betting.
Additional legislation is in the works for the state as Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh is preparing to introduce a bill for lottery gaming. The bill would negotiate a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians so that a lottery could be established in the state.
The tribe has three casinos in the state, and they are the only casino-style gambling option for residents as well as visitors to Alabama. The venues only offer bingo-based games as the state has not signed a Class III Indian gaming compact with the tribe.
Marsh feels that with Class III gaming and a lottery, the state would be able to generate a large sum of new revenues. The money could be used to provide education scholarships and provide more high-speed internet access to areas of the state.
The Senate President feels that the addition of the gambling options in his bill, the state would be able to bring in new funds without taxing residents.
Rogers sports betting bill plans would be a huge expansion for the state. The bill would allow players to wager via mobile and in-person. The casinos operated by Poarch Creek along with state dog and horse racetracks would be able to take part as long as they have been approved for licensing.
The state would also have to create a Sports Wagering Commission. This group would be in charge of the licensing process and overseeing the new industry as it is developed.
In the study conducted last year, it was discovered that if gambling is legalized in Alabama, it could bring in as much as $700 million a year. Players already travel to other states to enjoy casinos, sports betting, and to purchase lottery tickets. The new industry would also generate around 20,000 new employment opportunities.
Any expansion of gambling would have to be completed via a bill passed by Legislature and the governor. However, citizen approval is also needed via a ballot referendum, which of course, takes time.