Alabama Casino and Lottery Legislative Bundle Stalls in State Senate

Posted on: February 21, 2024, 08:43h. 

Last updated on: February 21, 2024, 10:13h.

Less than a week after the Alabama House of Representatives signed off on a gaming package to legalize commercial casinos and a state-run lottery plus sports betting, the Senator championing the gaming effort in the upper chamber says he doesn’t have the votes needed.

Alabama casino lottery gaming legislation
Alabama Sen. Greg Albritton (R) says the votes aren’t there for the state Senate to pass a casino and lottery referendum. The gaming expansion legislation found support last week in the state House. (Image: Montgomery Advisor)

House Bill 151 and its companion piece, House Bill 152, would ask state voters in November if they wish to amend the Alabama Constitution to permit Las Vegas-style casinos and a lottery.

A legislative-initiated referendum necessitates a three-fifths supermajority support. Last week, the gaming measures passed the Alabama House by a vote of 70-32.

State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) — who for years has encouraged his colleagues in the Montgomery capital to get behind gaming legislation to no avail — told this week that he doesn’t currently have the 21 votes needed in the 34-member Senate.

Albritton, whose district includes Wind Creek Atmore, an electronic bingo casino owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, says he’ll try and win over additional support in the coming days. Alabama’s 2024 legislative session is only in its early stages, meaning Albritton has some time to convince lawmakers that becoming a casino and lottery state is a sound bet.

It could be Albritton’s last gaming hurrah, as the state Senator is running for Congress in Alabama’s Second District. Albritton faces a crowded GOP field next week for the March 5 primary, and is one of eight candidates seeking the party’s nomination for the congressional seat.

Will History Repeat?

In nearly every legislative session in Alabama, laws are filed to authorize new forms of commercial gaming, but legislative support isn’t fielded. Alabama is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to gaming. The only permissible forms are currently the state’s tribal bingo casinos, pari-mutuel wagering, and small charitable games of chance.

This legislative year could be different, as public polling suggests Alabamians want the right to decide whether to end the state’s prohibition of most gambling. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is also calling on the legislature to act and give voters the chance to weigh in on casinos and a lottery.

House Bill 151/152 would allow the legislature to pass bills authorizing a state-run lottery that could participate in interstate games like Powerball and Mega Millions. The casino component would allow a newly formed state gaming commission to issue as many as six commercial casino licenses.

The Poarch Indians would be allowed to transition their bingo casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka into Las Vegas-like casinos. The sites would feature traditional slot machines, live dealer table games, and sports betting. The gaming package as currently written would also permit the Poarch Indians — Alabama’s only federally recognized tribe — to pursue a commercial casino development in the northern part of the state.

Millions at Stake

 Casino revenue would be taxed at 24% and sports betting win at 17%. Commercial casino licenses would cost $5 million.

All told, lawmakers believe the state could receive more than $1 billion annually from casino gambling and a lottery.

Alabamians haven’t been asked about gaming via a statewide referendum since 1999, when they shot down an effort to institute a lottery. More than 54% of the lottery vote cast during that referendum held 25 years ago was against becoming a lottery jurisdiction.