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Alabama Sports Betting: House OK's Plan To Legalize Gambling

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 4 mins

Alabama Sports Betting: House OK's Plan To Legalize Gambling

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Sports betting and a state lottery would be legalized in Alabama if voters approve a constitutional amendment passed by the Alabama House. 

That amendment was one of two bills to clear the lower body on February 15, potentially brining online sportsbetting and other forms of gambling in the state.

The bill with the amendment (HR 151) passed with the required 3/5ths vote. The final tally was 70-32. It was seven more votes than were required for passage. The bill would put a measure before the voters in November to legalize retail and online sports betting, a state lottery, and casinos in areas of the state that have bingo-type games. 

RELATED: Odds: What States Will Legalize Sports Betting In 2024

In addition, it would authorize the state to negotiate a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. That tribe operates three casinos in the state. 

The second bill (HR 152), in part, creates a state lottery commission and gaming commission to regulate those sectors of betting in the state. The Alabama Gaming Commission could license up to six casinos, with the seventh belonging to the Poarch Creek tribe. 

If approved in the state senate and signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, the constitutional amendment needs a simple majority of the votes in the November general election. 

On Track To Match Georgia 

This puts Alabama on a similar path to neighboring Georgia. The Georgia Senate passed the early framework of the bill on February 1 that would allow sports betting, pending the approval of an amendment to its state constitution this fall. That bill cleared a key Senate committee on Wednesday. 

Debate in the Alabama House on Thursday was pointed but civil. 

Opponents of the bill argued that legalized gambling could bring unintended consequences, and cause harm to poorer residents of the state.

Legislators cited multiple Bible verses as they argued against the morality of the state allowing any form of gambling. 

On at least two occasions, quotes from former Alabama head football coach Nick Saban were cited during the four-hour debate. 

And one legislator broke into a refrain from the country cross-over classic “The Gambler.” That was the title track from an album of the same name made famous by the late Kenny Rogers. It led to multiple made-for-TV movies.  

Rep. Chris Blackshear led the debate for passage. He’s been working on the bill for more than a year. 

'Correct Some Wrongs In The State'

“We took a big step forward today to correct some of the wrongs in the state,” Blackshear said after HR 152’s passage by a 67-31 margin.

“This is the constitutional amendment that, if passed by both bodies, would appear on the ballot for the citizens to vote, and I think that’s the critical thing,” Blackshear said Tuesday during a meeting of the Alabama House Economic Development and Tourism committee. 

Supporters of legalized gambling have long argued that it would bring in much-needed revenue to the state’s coffers. The money in Alabama would be used to fund education and health care programs. 

In its entirety, gambling could bring the state as much as $1.214 billion in revenue, according to a report by the Legislative Service Agency. Of that $92 million would come from casinos, $379 million from the lottery, up to $1 million from sports betting, and the reminder via a potential tribal compact. 

The money would be funneled into two separate state agencies. Lottery money, as in the case in many states, would be directed toward education funding via the Lottery for Education Fund. A Gaming Trust Fund would handle revenues from casinos and sports betting, used in part to fund various health care programs. 

Lottery Push Failed 25 Years Ago

A push to enact a state lottery failed in 1999 when it was rejected by voters. 

But that was 25 years ago, which may feel like 25,000 years ago in the betting universe. Alabama is just one of 5 states in the U.S. without a lottery. It is the only state east of the Rocky Mountains without one. 

Thus, Alabama is fully surrounded by states that allow lottery betting, and big-money multi-state games like Powerball and Mega Millions. 

The other three states that border Alabama – in addition to Georgia –feature sports betting either in person (Mississippi and Florida) or online (Florida and Tennessee). 

Florida relaunched online sports betting in November via the Hard Rock Bet app. During the debate on passage of HR 151, even opponents of the bill lamented the “long lines of cars to Florida and Georgia” full of would-be bettors and/or lottery players. 

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About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.