Alabama Lottery and Casino Legislative Efforts to Resume in Early 2022

Posted on: December 20, 2021, 11:44h. 

Last updated on: December 20, 2021, 06:33h.

Alabama gaming proponents plan to reignite their legislative efforts when the state legislature convenes for its 2022 session next month.

Alabama gaming casino lottery
The Alabama State Capitol is seen amid empty streets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Legislative motions in Montgomery to authorize a lottery and casinos are expected in January of 2022. (Image: TimeOut)

A new year means new political undertakings in Montgomery to end Alabama’s decades-long prohibition of most forms of commercial gambling. Alabama is one of only four states that does not have a lottery or commercial casino — the others being Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah.

Alabama lawmakers have for years unsuccessfully tried to end the state’s opposition to lottery and casino gambling. Alabama does have Class II tribal casinos that offer bingo-based gaming machines.

State Senator Greg Albritton (R-Range) told the Associated Press this week that he will introduce a lottery and casino bill when the legislature commences on January 11.

Election Year Lengthens Odds

Albritton says details of his gaming package are still being determined, but will likely include the authorization of a state-operated lottery. The bill is expected to additionally allow Alabama’s lone federally recognized tribe to reach a Class III gaming compact with the state.

Tribal casinos on sovereign lands must reach such an agreement under federal law to operate Class III gaming — aka slot machines and table games. A compact would permit the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to bring slots and tables to their current Class II casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, Wetumpka, and Mobile.

This simply needs to get off our plate, off the table. We need to deal with this, and waiting another year is not going to help us. That would just be revenue thrown aside or thrown away,” Albritton declared.

Albritton says Alabama should use legal gaming tax revenue to support mental health programs throughout the state.

Alabama’s pari-mutuel racetracks could also be afforded the opportunity to bid on gaming licenses that would allow the facilities to incorporate slots and table games. But there are concerns that the 2022 elections, which will include a May primary and November 8 general election for numerous state Senate and House seats, will interfere with gaming energies.

“I would be very surprised if it would pass in a regular session in an election year,” opined state Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Dale).

People Possess Power

The elections, Clouse believes, will prevent some state lawmakers from endorsing gaming legislation. Alabama is a deeply conservative state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1976.

State officials who back a lottery and/or casino bill will presumably face plenty of backlash from their religious constituents. But some say such an endorsement is simply giving power to the people to decide on the gaming topics.

For Alabama to legalize a lottery or commercial casinos, the state constitution must be amended. For a ballot referendum to go before the public, the state House and Senate must each pass a proposed gaming amendment with three-fifths majority support.

Should that happen, the question would be placed before voters. If a simple majority backs the question, the Alabama Constitution would be amended.

“This is the perfect opportunity to say, ‘I’m going to give the power to the people to make this decision,'” declared Robbie McGhee, vice-chair of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Council.