Alabama Legislature Swiftly Advances Casino and Lottery Proposal

Credits: AL.com

A legislative committee in Alabama has moved swiftly to advance a gambling proposal that would authorize a lottery, sports betting, and the establishment of multiple casinos across the state.

The Alabama House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved the two-bill package, setting the stage for a crucial vote in the state House of Representatives on Thursday.

If passed by the state Legislature, the proposal would be put before Alabama voters in the November general election, marking the first public vote on gambling since a proposed lottery was rejected in 1999.

Alabama State House (Credits: PlayUSA.com)

Representative Chris Blackshear, the bill’s sponsor, hailed it as a significant opportunity for the people of Alabama to decide on the future of gambling in the state.

The comprehensive proposal would permit up to 10 casino sites, including three tribal sites operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, to offer table games and slot machines.

It would also establish a state lottery and allow for sports betting both in-person and through online platforms. Republican Representative Andy Whitt, involved in developing the proposal, indicated that the bills would be voted on in the House on Thursday.

Republican leaders in the legislature have prioritized these bills, expediting their progress. The swift advancement comes just one week after the bills were introduced, with the committee’s approval following a public hearing on Tuesday.

The legislation has faced some opposition, with Republican Representative Allen Treadaway expressing concerns about enforcement and the potential for the legislation to favor certain casino operators.

Under the proposed legislation, a new Alabama Gaming Commission would issue licenses for up to seven additional casinos in the state, with certain counties specifically reserved for these licenses.

The legislation also includes provisions for a tenth casino, subject to a negotiated compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which would allow the tribe to open a casino on non-tribal land in the northeast corner of the state.

The proposed constitutional amendment required for these changes will need 63 votes to win approval in the 105-member Alabama House of Representatives.

Proponents argue that the gambling expansion could generate significant revenue for the state, potentially up to $912 million annually, which could be used for various purposes including scholarships and education funding.

Despite the potential economic benefits, former Governor Don Siegelman, who previously championed a failed lottery proposal, has expressed reservations about the current bill.

Siegelman criticized the legislation for allowing the legislature to decide how to allocate the revenue without guaranteeing funding levels for key programs like scholarships and prekindergarten education.

The fate of the gambling proposal in Alabama hinges on the upcoming vote in the state House of Representatives, with supporters hopeful for its passage and opponents voicing concerns about its potential impact.

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