Lawmakers in Alabama are gearing up to address the state’s gambling laws with a comprehensive gaming bill set to take center stage on 6 February. The proposed legislation would introduce a wide range of gambling options and establish the Alabama Gaming Commission as the regulatory body overseeing the industry.
The current constitution of Alabama prohibits gambling, but there are 18 constitutional amendments that allow specific forms of gaming in certain regions. This has sparked longstanding debates among officials regarding the legality of these provisions. The new unified gaming legislation aims to resolve these contentious issues and broaden the scope of available wagering options while implementing updated customer protection standards.
Governor Kay Ivey’s 2020 Study Group on Gambling Policy Report suggests that the potential revenue from gambling could reach up to $710 million annually. A lottery alone could generate $200-300 million, casino gaming $300-400 million, and sports betting $10 million. The taxes and fees from this proposed bill would contribute to both the Education Budget and the General Fund Budget.
The bill also seeks to repeal all 18 constitutional amendments related to gambling and strengthen efforts against illegal gaming by elevating it from a misdemeanor to a felony with significant financial penalties. It would introduce a bidding process for Class III gaming in specific areas, including tribal lands, Birmingham, and several counties.
If passed, each Class III gaming operation licensed by the commission may apply for a sports gaming license, with provisions for online sports betting. However, other forms of online gaming would remain prohibited.
It is important to note that the bill would not legalize gambling without input from state voters. Instead, it aims to reduce the number of gambling establishments through a crackdown on illegal gaming. As a constitutional amendment, the bill would require a three-fifths majority in both legislative chambers and a successful referendum, likely during the November general election. Thus, Alabama voters will ultimately have the final say on the matter.