Alabama Gambling Bill Faces Uncertain Outlook In Second Half Of Legislative Session

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Legislation to start a state lottery — and possibly allow casinos and other gambling devices — faces an uncertain outlook in the Alabama Statehouse because of divisions over sports betting and the number of casino sites.

Lawmakers, who are on spring break next week, are trying to find common ground between a sweeping House-passed plan that would include sports betting and multiple casinos with table games and a scaled-back version of the bill that was approved by the Alabama Senate.

Any gambling proposal would have to be approved by both three-fifths of lawmakers and a majority of voters. Alabamians have not voted on gambling since a proposed lottery was rejected in 1999.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed said the House wanted to take some time to review the Senate changes and they will evaluate where they're at when lawmakers return from break.

“As you all are aware, we minimized the casino opportunity, eliminated the sports betting, which were topics that were non-starters in the Senate body,” Reed said.

House members approved a proposed constitutional amendment to allow a state lottery, sports-betting at in-person sites and online platforms, and up to 10 casino sites with table games and slot machines. The Senate plan greatly reduced the number of potential casino sites and eliminated sports betting.

The Senate version would allow a state lottery, electronic wagering machines at dog tracks and several other locations and require the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. A compact could pave the way for the tribe to have full-fledged casinos with table games at its three sites in the state.

“The House sent us up a comprehensive package that covered a great deal. The Senate sent to them a much-reduced package and with very specific instructions on potential changes. That appears to have a chilling effect on advancement,” said Sen. Greg Albritton, who handled the legislation in the Senate.

Albritton said lawmakers still have time to get a bill approved but only if they are willing to compromise.

“We still have the time, and we have the need,” he said. “The flexibility may be the determining factor whether we accomplish something this year.”

Lawmakers return to Montgomery on April 2.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton estimated there's a 60% chance that lawmakers get a bill approved before the session ends in May.

“You know how this process works. It could be the last day, the last minute that something comes out and it works,” Singleton said.