June 16, 2024

Alabama gaming expansion will remain on hold for at least another year after a compromise reached by a special legislative committee stalled in the state Senate by a single vote.

Alabama gaming expansion Kay Ivey
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is among many lawmakers in Montgomery frustrated with a powerful state senator who prevented a gaming package compromise from going before voters. Sen. Greg Albritton says the conciliation didn’t do enough to protect the interests of the Poach Band of Creek Indians. (Image: Gov. Kay Ivey)

History has repeated itself in nearly every legislative session in the Montgomery capital since 1999 when Alabamans rejected a statewide ballot referendum to authorize a lottery by a vote of 54%-46%. Over the past 25 years, lawmakers have repeatedly introduced legislation to expand gaming in the Cottom State to no avail.

A similar outcome came last week when a gaming package compromise reached by a conference committee was a vote shy of the needed three-fifths majority in the upper chamber.

The committee of three state Senators and three House Delegates recommended that the state create a lottery and allow electronic gaming machines at pari-mutuel wagering facilities. Alabama’s lone federally recognized tribe, the Poach Band of Creek Indians, would have been allowed to transform their Class II bingo-based casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka into Class III casinos with Las Vegas-style slot machines and live dealer table games.

Had the Senate approved the compromise as the House did, voters would have had the final say in August during a special election.

Gov. Ivey Expresses Frustration

The Alabama House of Delegates quickly passed the gaming compromise after receiving it earlier this month. The package then stalled upon receipt in the Senate.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), a staunch supporter of gaming expansion, and most specifically, a lottery, said after Thursday’s legislative end that she wouldn’t call a special session to continue the gaming conversation.

Why would I do that?” Ivey asked. “They cannot come to a consensus among themselves. Why would I spend the time, effort, and money on a special session? Every year, it’s always wait until next year. I think people are tired of waiting.”

State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) was a surprising “no” vote after sponsoring gaming bills in the Senate and serving on the six-member conference committee. Albritton said he was overruled in the committee and believed the compromise the majority in the committee reached would have hurt the Poarch Creek Indians by allowing slots at racetracks, and not allowing the tribe to pursue a fourth casino in the northeastern part of the state as he proposed.

Harsh Words

Albritton’s vote faced an abundance of backlash from House supporters. Rep. Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) said Albritton’s vote means Alabama will continue to subsidize education and other services that the lotteries in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee support.

We are hypocrites, that is what we are,” Jackson declared.

Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Smiths Station) opined that Albritton and other state Senators who voted “no” are playing politics and think opposing gaming is a smart bet for their reelection bids.

It frustrates me,” said Blackshear. “The voters are not as ignorant as they think they are.”

While Alabama is a deeply conservative state in the so-called “Bible Belt,” polling in recent years has shown changing attitudes among the electorate for a lottery and possible casino gaming and sports betting. A survey conducted by Alabama Daily News in February found that 71% of likely voters “strongly” or “somewhat” support additional forms of gambling.  

The post Alabama Gaming Expansion Compromise Dead by a Single Vote, Gov. Ivey Upset appeared first on Casino.org.

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