June 16, 2024

Alabama lawmakers have considered gaming expansion bills in nearly every legislative session over the past two decades without any new forms of legal gambling coming to the Cotton State. The odds appear to favor that trend continuing in 2024.

Alabama gaming expansion lottery casino
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) wants state lawmakers to allow Alabamans to determine the fate of gaming expansion. The state Senate, however, appears poised to stand in the voters’ way. (Image: Governor’s Office)

A conference committee this week recommended that the Alabama Legislature pass bills to initiate a statewide ballot referendum for a special election on August 20. The panel, consisting of three state Senators and three House Delegates, proposed asking voters to authorize a state-run lottery, three tribal casinos with slot machines and table games, and up to seven racinos where electronic gaming machines would be allowed.

The House of Delegates swiftly endorsed the committee’s gaming expansion suggestions. The state Senate did not.

The Senate voted 20-15 on Tuesday night, a vote shy of the three-fifths majority needed to initiate a legislative-led ballot referendum to amend the Alabama Constitution. Senate lawmakers said they could vote again on the gaming package, which many thought would happen today, but reports from Montgomery suggest supporters of the initiative haven’t yet found the single vote they need.

Vote Mothballed 

Alabama media group 1819 News, a name that honors the state’s founding on Dec. 14, 1819, reported via X Thursday morning that a re-vote in the Senate about the gaming package is unlikely today.

Hearing no vote on gambling constitution amendment in Senate,” tweeted 1819 News Assistant Editor Caleb Taylor. “Only going to bring it up again this session if it will 100% pass.”

A second vote short of 21 votes would effectively kill the proposed expansion of gambling. The first vote did not, with Senate Secretary Pat Harris explaining that the vote’s purpose was to adopt the conference committee’s findings. The adoption needed only a simple majority to arrive in the upper chamber.

Thursday’s news that the Senate won’t vote on the gaming bills — House Bill 151 and 152 — seemingly lengthen the odds of the all-important 21st vote being found before the Legislature adjourns for the year on May 20.

Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is urging the Senate to allow Alabamans to decide the gaming outcome.

“It’s time for voters of Alabama to have their say,” Ivey declared. “Legislators have had their say — now it’s time for Alabama voters to vote. Let’s get this done.”

Gaming Proponent Votes ‘No’

Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) championed the Senate’s gaming changes to the House bills and sat on the conference committee. But the longtime gaming proponent was among the 15 “no” votes on Tuesday.

Albritton said he was overruled in the conference committee in not providing more exclusive gaming privileges to the Poach Band of Creek Indians, which currently own and operate a Class II tribal casino in the lawmaker’s district.

“This is a bill that is not conducive to my constituencies in my district,” Albritton said after the committee stripped a provision that would have allowed the tribe to pursue a commercial casino in the northern part of the state. “This bill put restrictions and restraints on the Poach Creek Indians so that their participation in the industry would be extremely limited with high competition. It didn’t provide any avenue for growth or even sustainability.”

Albritton last month lost his Republican primary to run for Congress in Alabama’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District.  

The post Odds Lengthen of Alabama Gaming Package Passing State Senate appeared first on Casino.org.

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