Alabama Lottery, Casino Bill Narrowly Defeated in Senate

Posted on: March 10, 2021, 09:06h. 

Last updated on: July 19, 2021, 01:23h.

Alabama residents are unlikely to get a shot at expanding gambling and establishing a state lottery — at least not at next November’s ballot. On Tuesday, the Alabama Senate killed a bill that called for a statewide referendum on the state’s future gaming landscape but only by a whisker.

Alabama lottery
Alabama State Sen. Del Marsh feels he was let down by colleagues who promised to vote for his casino and lottery bill. (Image: Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser)

Sen. Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) legislation needed a supermajority of 21 votes to pass. It gathered 19, with 13 against.

Alabama is one of only five states that doesn’t have one, As well as establishing a state lottery Marsh’s bill would have permitted five new commercial casinos at predesignated locations, voters permitting.

By legalizing full-fledged casinos, it would have also enabled the state’s only federally recognized tribe, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, to offer Class III casino gaming at their on-reservations casinos. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey had negotiated a revenue-sharing compact with the tribe.

The Poarch Creeks would have also operated one of the five new commercial casinos. All these venues would have been permitted to offer sports betting.

Stabbed in the Back?

The amendment failed despite Marsh previously stating he believed he had the votes he needed. Afterward, he said he had made a “rookie mistake” by not holding the vote last week.

Marsh hinted that some Republicans had switched sides since then. That’s while two Democrats who were expected to back the bill were absent because of illness. The two absent members were Sen. Priscilla Dunn (Birmingham) and Malika Sanders-Fortier (Selma).

Marsh expressed frustration with colleagues who had promised to back him for not being “honest brokers.”

It’s uncertain whether the bill would have been passed by the House had it made it through the Senate. According to The Montgomery Advertiser, there was a certain amount of skepticism about gambling expansion in the lower chamber.

Alabama Lottery Broadband Plan 

Proceeds from a future lottery would have gone to fund schools and post-secondary scholarships. Revenues generated from commercial and tribal casinos would have financed an ambitious $1 billion plan to improve broadband infrastructure in Alabama to help stimulate the economy.

The project may have to be abandoned, although Gov. Kay Ivey gave a statement after the vote backing the bill and supporting its resurrection.

Today’s vote by the Alabama Senate confirms more work must be done, because this issue is too important to not get it right,” she said. “No doubt gambling is complex and challenging, but I remain committed to giving the people of Alabama the final say.”

Should the legislature “wish to continue discussion on this topic,” she would be “ready and willing to engage,” she said.