Alabama Lottery and Casino Bill Dead in the Water as Legislative Session Ended Monday

Posted on: May 18, 2021, 03:36h. 

Last updated on: May 18, 2021, 05:02h.

Alabama is one of just a few US states that does not have a lottery, and it will stay that way for the time being.

Alabama lottery
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was a vocal backer of the bill, but she is not expected to call a special session in a bid to keep it alive. (Image: Associated Press)

On Monday, the state’s legislative session ended with the House unable to reach consensus on an ambitious gambling expansion package that would also have asked voters whether to legalize casino gaming and sports betting.

The Senate passed the bill comfortably in April. But by Monday, it was described as “walking wounded” by The Montgomery Advertiser. The bill would be quickly put out of its misery when House leaders said they would not call it for a vote.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon told television station WBMA ABC 33/40 that there were fundamental differences that could not be ironed out in a day.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she had no plans to call a special session to keep the bill alive unless there was an indication lawmakers could work to resolve these differences. Republican Ivey had been a vocal supporter of the legislation.

Moving Parts

Most of the damage had been done on May 6, when a last-ditch attempt by Republicans to introduce a lottery-only version, minus casinos, allowed the debate to descended into bickering.

Democrats accused their opponents of not including them in discussions of this supposedly bipartisan legislation.

Ultimately, there were a lot of moving parts to this bill. That was supposed to be an advantage. It was thought that including disparate stakeholders would give it a better chance of passing.

In practice, it simply meant lawmakers could find plenty to disagree on, from the language of the bill to how revenues raised by the proposed reforms would be spent.

Spending plans for the estimated $710 million in extra taxes included an ambitious scheme to expand high-speed internet access to help stimulate the economy, as well as education and health care.  

Democrats wanted to fund Medicaid, which was a sticking point for Republicans, who said it was too expensive.

Bingo Upgrade

As well as establishing a lottery, the bill would have legalized full casino gaming at nine locations. The state’s only federally recognized tribe, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, would have been permitted to upgrade their three Class II gaming facilities to Class III “Las Vegas-style” gaming, and to construct a new casino in the state.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s five existing racetracks would also have been able to upgrade to full-fledged casinos.

Currently, the tribe is permitted to offer slot-like bingo machines under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The racetracks have, in the past, been embroiled in protracted legal battles with the state over their right to offer the same machines.