Alabama Legislature’s Bid for Gaming Expansion Fizzles as Senate Rejects Bills in Nail-Biting Vote

Home » Alabama Legislature’s Bid for Gaming Expansion Fizzles as Senate Rejects Bills in Nail-Biting Vote

The Alabama Legislature encountered a stalemate on Thursday, failing to push through highly contested gaming bills on the concluding day of the state’s legislative session. Despite the House’s approval of two bills supporting gaming expansion, they faltered in the Senate, falling short by one vote due to Sen. Greg Albritton’s reversal.

House approval, Senate hurdle:

On April 30, the Alabama House endorsed the ongoing gaming bills, with House Bill 151 securing a 72-29 vote and House Bill 152 passing with a 70-29 vote. However, the momentum fizzled as the bills hit the Senate floor. Senator Greg Albritton, R-Baldwin County, initially sponsored the bills in the Senate but indicated a potential ‘no’ vote after their House passage. With Albritton’s reversal, the bills fell short of the required 21 votes, garnering only 20.

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Following the House’s affirmative votes, Representative Russell Blackshear expressed gratitude, highlighting the bipartisan effort behind the bills’ advancement. “It’s amazing when you work together as a team, when things don’t have Rs or Ds by their names,” Blackshear remarked. He was the author of both bills.

The proposed legislation aimed to introduce a state education lottery along with electronic games of chance, traditional raffles, and paper bingo while maintaining restrictions on tables, cards, dice, and dealers. Notably, the Alabama educational lottery would have been exclusively paper-based, with electronic gaming limited to seven designated locations statewide. Expansion beyond these sites would necessitate additional legislative measures and citizen voting.

Revenue allocation and exclusions:

Funds generated from gaming activities were earmarked for education, with other gaming revenues allocated to general funds. Additionally, Alabamians would have gained access to national lotteries like Mega Millions and Powerball. However, the exclusion of sports betting from the bill, leaving it unauthorized, underscored remaining areas of contention.

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HB152 proposed the establishment of the Alabama Gaming Commission to oversee approved gambling activities and combat illegal gambling within the state. Furthermore, it mandated Governor Kay Ivey to engage in negotiations with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to restrict land-based activities.

Historical context and future prospects:

As the Montgomery Advertiser reports, Alabama’s last gaming referendum occurred in 1999, culminating in statewide rejection. Despite the recent legislative efforts, Governor Kay Ivey indicated her reluctance to convene a special session to address the gaming bills, leaving their fate uncertain.

While the House’s endorsement signaled progress, the bills’ failure to navigate the Senate reflects ongoing divisions regarding the expansion of gaming in Alabama. As the legislative session concludes, the unresolved status of gaming legislation underscores the complexities inherent in reconciling differing perspectives on this contentious issue.

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