Slightly more than a month after the Alabama Senate killed a bill that could bring sports betting, casinos and a state lottery, the same branch of government passed a proposal that would do the same.
The Senate passed SB 319 by a 23-9 margin Tuesday. The bill moved to the House where it was read and referred to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee Thursday. If passed in the House, it will allow citizens to vote in November 2022 on whether the state should amend the constitution and implement those expanded gambling activities within the state.
The bill would also allow the state to enter into a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which already operate Class II bingo facilities in Alabama. With a compact, the tribe would be able to upgrade to Class III gaming, which includes traditional table games and slot machines.
Under the legislation, the state could see six commercial casinos in addition to three tribal properties, all of which would be run by the Poarch Creek Indians. Operators would pay a licensing fee between $5 million and $35 million, depending on the population of the area where the casino would be constructed. It would be valid for a decade.
The bill creates a state gaming commission that vet and select the nine licensees.
All nine operators would have the ability to operate brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. They would also be allowed to partner with up to three online sportsbooks to allow for online betting. Sports bettors must at least 21 years old to wager.
In early March, an expanded gambling bill sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh fell a few votes shy of moving through the Senate. It received a simple majority support, but since the issues deal with a constitutional amendment, it needed at least 60% of the body to vote for it. Only 19 of the 35 members voted in favor of it and it failed to pass.
Marsh, along with fellow Republicans Sen. Jim McClendon and Sen. Garland Gudger, sponsored the recently-passed legislation as well. He had submitted multiple gambling bills at the start of the legislative session, giving the legislature multiple opportunities to pass expanded gambling measures. This year’s legislative session, however, ends next month, likely making it the state’s last chance for now.
Multiple lawmakers have been pushing for bringing more gambling to the state for several years. In February 2020, Gov. Kay Ivey said that she wouldn’t approve a casino bill until after a study had been conducted on the possible effects it would have on the state.
The study was completed in December that year and it claimed that gambling would bring $700 million in tax revenue and 19,000 jobs to the state. Since then, Ivey has been amenable to the idea and her constituents echo her sentiment. According to a 2020 poll that was conducted as part of Ivey’s mandated study, two-thirds of the state is in favor of gambling expansion.