Gambling Expansion in Alabama Could Create Thousands of Jobs: Report

Posted on: December 28, 2020, 02:11h. 

Last updated on: December 28, 2020, 02:26h.

Up to 19,000 new jobs could be created in Alabama if gambling is legalized across the state, according to a state report released this month.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey examines a state report on legalized gambling released in December. The Legislature is expected to address the issue at the next session. (Image: Alabama News Network)

The 876-page report from the Study Group on Gambling also says legal gambling would pump up to $700 million into the state budget from a lottery, casino gambling, and sports betting. 

A lottery alone would bring in $200 million to $300 million, according to WSFA-TV. Alabama is one of five states without a legal lottery.

Sports betting, which is expanding into other Southern states, would bring in $10 million.

Gov. Kay Ivey formed the study group at the beginning of the year, before the COVID-19 crisis began. She said there has been a “seemingly endless debate on gambling in Alabama.”

At a news conference earlier in December, former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said gambling’s advantages outweigh the disadvantages, according to the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper. Strange was the study group’s chairman.

“Gambling will work in the state of Alabama,” he said at the Capitol in Montgomery.

The study group recommended five options: do nothing, prohibit gambling but incorporate a regulatory authority, allow a lottery but nothing else, permit limited gambling, or permit full gambling.

Legislative Action Required

The governor has not thrown her support behind any of study group’s recommendations. Ivey said the “final say” on gambling belongs with the public.

“When I have a recommendation regarding a specific course of action, I will do so in full transparency to the people of Alabama, working hand-in-hand with the Alabama Legislature,” she said in a statement.

The Legislature meets again early next year. State Sen. Del Marsh, a Republican from Anniston, said he plans to file gambling legislation.

I believe it is time to address this issue,” Marsh said in a statement to the newspaper.

The state already has several forms of gaming. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians operate casinos under federal law in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka. Parimutuel dog and horse-race wagering is allowed in four counties, and 16 counties have charity bingo.

The study group’s report notes that social costs, such as gambling addiction and crime, could increase if legal gambling is expanded. These costs could result from the state’s residents who develop gambling disorders, estimated at 66,375 people, the Alabama News Network reported.

But the report says money can be set aside to combat these social issues.

“While there are costs associated with gambling, the taxation of regulated gambling activities creates an opportunity to dedicate public funds to gambling treatment, prevention, or education services,” the report states.

State Oversight

Alabama does not have a regulatory agency to oversee the gambling industry.

If gambling is expanded, “the governing, administering, and overseeing” of the industry would become a new function of state government, according to the news network. Members of a Board of Trustees would be nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Alabama Senate.

However, since Alabama would be one of the last states to expand gambling or set up a statewide lottery, officials could learn “best practices” from other states, the news network reported.