Alabama Gaming and Lottery Bills Face Long Odds in 2024

Posted on: January 8, 2024, 09:46h. 

Last updated on: January 8, 2024, 10:12h.

Alabama casino gaming and lottery bills will presumably face long odds of passing should they be introduced in the Montgomery capital this year.

Alabama lottery casino gaming
Alabama lottery and casino discussions are expected this legislative year in the Montgomery capital. However, the odds of a gaming measure reaching the 2024 ballot are likely long. (Image: NBC13)

When it comes to gaming considerations, it’s been a sort of “Groundhog Day” in the Alabama State Capitol, as lawmakers have perennially filed casino and lottery bills, only to reach similar fates of legislative deadlock. Since 1999, efforts to expand gaming in the Cotton State have been authored nearly every year to no avail.

The 2024 session begins on February 6 and runs through March 11. While it’s presumed that standalone casino and lottery bills will be introduced, and possibly a gaming package including both, state lawmakers are already setting the odds of something passing. And those odds aren’t exactly good.

State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) told 1819 News that there’s little appetite in the Senate to consider a gaming bill.

I don’t think it’d ever get a vote,” Givhan said.

Enthusiasm in the House for gaming measures is also questionable.

“We’ve got to analyze what we need to do to try and prevent this unwarranted expansion of gaming,” state Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn), the chair of the House Rules Committee, told the Alabama Reflector.

Statewide Referendum Required

The Alabama Constitution explicitly bans commercial enterprises from running lotteries and games of chance. Local amendments have authorized pari-mutuel wagering in certain counties, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians operates three Indian casinos with electronic bingo games in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka.

All other forms of gaming, including the lottery, commercial and Tribal casinos with Las Vegas-style slot machines and table games, iGaming, sports betting, and racinos remain outlawed. Alabama is one of only five states without a lottery, the others being Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.

To amend the state constitution to allow for any new form of gaming, a statewide ballot referendum must gain a simple majority (50% plus a vote). A poll conducted in 2020 as part of Gov. Kay Ivey’s (R) Study Group on Gambling Policy found that Alabamans want a state-run lottery and the legal ability to purchase Mega Millions and Powerball tickets.

The study found that nearly 71% of likely voters strongly favor or somewhat favor a statewide lottery. Just 25% opposed or strongly opposed a lottery formation, and about 4% said they were unsure.

Redistricting Concerns

Alabama Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Baldwin) says even if Alabamans do want a lottery, Republican lawmakers would be smart to delay consideration of a lottery bill to initiate a referendum until after this November’s elections.

Alabama recently underwent redistricting, as ordered by a federal court. The map redraw resulted in what’s expected to be the Democrats’ best chance to win the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which has been held by Republicans since 2011.

Elliott opined in December that putting a lottery and/or casino referendum on the 2024 ballot could propel Democratic voter turnout.

“It would drive up Democrats’ turnout,” Elliott said. “That is not something that the majority in either chamber should want to do.”