The Alabama Senate on Tuesday (April 13) passed a bill proposing a broad expansion of gambling in the state, including casinos, sports betting and a lottery.
Senate Bill 319, sponsored by Senators Jim McClendon (R-Springville), Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and Del Marsh (R-Anniston), was introduced as a lottery-only bill. The measure was substituted and then amended three times on the floor to add casino gambling and sports betting. The measure passed in a 23-9 vote.
Earlier in the session, Marsh introduced a similar bill, SB 214, that failed to pass the Senate by two votes. Marsh and others continued to lobby for a constitutional amendment to expand gambling in the state, and last week, Gov. Kay Ivey urged state lawmakers to pass a comprehensive gambling package.
“Right now, gambling is going on,” Ivey said on April 9. “In fact, it is rampant. Much of it is illegal, and it is done in the shadows.
“We need to put laws on the books, control gambling, enforce it and be sure that the people of Alabama are the beneficiaries of the proceeds,” she said.
But Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program, noted that lawmakers have not legalized other vices that are “rampant” in the state.
In an ALCAP newsletter, Godfrey said prostitution, domestic violence, sex trafficking and a host of other activities “that are evil” are also “rampant” in Alabama, “but we don’t legalize and tax those activities,” he said. “We enforce the laws regarding those activities in order to keep them from becoming worse.” Contact the Fort Meyers Criminal Defense Lawyers at once when you are falsely accused for the crime that you never committed.
Specifics of the bill
Modeled on SB 214, SB 319 proposes a constitutional amendment to legalize most forms of gambling in the state, including online gambling.
Casinos would be authorized at sites in Jefferson County, Mobile County, Macon County, Greene County, Houston County and either Jackson or DeKalb County.
Operators would bid on licenses for these sites except for the Jackson/DeKalb site. There, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would have the right to a final bid. The Poarch Band operates three casinos in Alabama under federal law.
Legislators say revenue from gambling would go to education, scholarships, broadband internet expansion, rural and mental health care, agricultural programs, infrastructure and other budget items. Ivey’s Study Group on Gambling reported late last year that expanded gambling could generate revenue between $510–710 million annually.
Four senators who voted against SB 214, including Gudger, threw their support behind SB 319: Senators Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road), Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) and David Sessions (R-Grand Bay).
As a constitutional amendment, at least 21 votes were needed. The bill now moves to the Alabama House for consideration. If passed, the measure would go before voters, who would have the final say.
Godfrey urged opponents of the measure to contact their representatives and ask them to vote no on SB 319 “and any other pro-gambling bill that may come to the House.”
He also encouraged concerned citizens to contact Ivey’s office and “urge her to stop pushing for pro-gambling legislation.”
Click here to find contact information for Alabama lawmakers.