As the clock ticks on the 2022 Alabama legislative session, Alabama Citizens Action Program is monitoring several late-filed gambling bills now under consideration with only seven legislative days remaining.
Rep. Chip Brown introduced two lottery bills March 15: House Bill 501, which calls for a statewide constitutional amendment authorizing a state lottery, and HB502, an enabling bill that would take effect should voters approve the amendment.
The bills are co-sponsored by the following House members:
- Rhett Marques
- Jeff Sorrells
- Shane Stringer
- Gil Isbell
- Joe Faust
- Ed Oliver
- Margie Wilcox
- Scott Stadhagen
- Debbie Wood
- Craig Lipscomb
- Steve Hurst
- Parker Moore
ALCAP reported the introduction of the bills in a March 16 legislative update and said it appears legislative leaders want to fast-track the bills in an attempt to get them passed before the end of the session in early April.
Casinos, sports betting bills
Two gambling bills also are under consideration in the Alabama Senate. Senate Bill 293 proposes a constitutional amendment to allow state-controlled casinos, a state lottery and online sports betting, among other gambling enterprises. SB 294 is the enabling bill for that effort.
Gambling (outside of pari-mutuel wagering at the four existing greyhound tracks) is currently prohibited under Alabama’s constitution. Any legalized expansion of gambling, including a lottery and casinos, would have to pass a statewide referendum on a change to the constitution.
Operating under federal law, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians runs casino-style, gambling facilities in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka.
Also, continuing to operate in several locations across the state are illegal establishments, some for many years and others in a more temporary fashion. Electronic bingo gambling advocates especially have been in constant battle with the state over the legality of their operations.
Each year during the legislative session, a variety of bills are introduced, and a handful of legislators surface as the most vocal supporters of new efforts to legalize expanded forms of gambling. Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Bay Minette, has been one of the most outspoken senators this year.
Last year, Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, sponsored a comprehensive package of gambling legislation. When it failed to pass, he attributed the defeat to Baptist opposition.
ALCAP opposes any effort to expand gambling in the state. The negative impact of gambling far outweighs any perceived benefits, say ALCAP president Joe Godfrey and president-elect Greg Davis.
Among the many financial and moral problems with legalized gambling, Godfrey said government-sanctioned gambling incurs “major social costs that end up being footed by all taxpayers.”
“In addition to targeting and exploiting the financially desperate and cultivating addiction, government-sanctioned gambling leads to increases in rates of personal bankruptcy and provides new avenues for crime and money laundering,” Godfrey said. “Gambling operators don’t pay for the harms they cause families, businesses and communities. Taxpayers do. Lower-income Americans lose money on gambling, get it back by relying on more financial help from their government, which then gets it from taxpayers.”
Davis added that if gambling were to expand in Alabama, “our churches will be the ones to pick up the pieces, pay the bills and provide counseling to those adversely affected, directly and indirectly, by gambling in Alabama.”
Pray and reach out
ALCAP encourages every Alabama Baptist to do two things in an effort to defeat the legislation: pray and contact their state legislators to let them know they oppose any expansion of gambling in the state and why.
“We know this is a spiritual battle,” Davis said.
To learn more about ALCAP’s efforts in the statehouse, pending legislation and to find the name and contact information of each state senator and representative, visit ALCAP.com.