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In an interesting series of developments, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey indicated that she would have supported the failing efforts to legalize sports betting under SB 319. That would have been good news for Alabamans looking for access to a wider betting market, but won’t likely happen.
The governor was quoted as saying: “The proposal in its current form limits gambling to select destinations, allows us to clean up the current rampant, illegal operations, and will allow Alabamians to be the beneficiaries of this activity”. Unfortunately, however, the bill didn’t make it through the House on Thursday, and the AL legislative session ends at the end of the month.
At the moment, electronic bingo is one of only a few limited forms of gambling in Alabama, offered by tribal casinos at select locations in the state. Bingo, slots, and racinos encompass the only gambling to be found in AL. The last time that a bill came up to expand gambling was a failed attempt to legislate a state lottery in 1999, meaning that Alabama’s gambling scope has not changed at all this millennium– a streak that will likely continue.
Donald Trump Jr., a controversial figure in United States business and politics, was one of many voices opposing the Alabama betting bill. His take was that the bill would “grant a monopoly to a small group of casino bosses” and “stop the world’s best gambling operators from opening world-class Resorts & Casinos (sic) in Alabama”.
This interpretation seemed to echo that of some gambling operators in the Yellowhammer State, as the passing of SB 319 would have repealed earlier constitutional amendments allowing certain counties to offer electronic bingo.
Another group pushing back on expanded gambling is the Alabama Citizens Action Program, a Christian organization that pushes back against “immorality” and, according to their website, promotes “an ethical, moral and responsible lifestyle based on biblical standards”. Their voices were heard in the Alabama legislature, and lawmakers in the House didn’t opt to add SB 319 to the House roll call after a heated debate.
When SB 319 was brought to the House floor for discussion this week, no punches were pulled. On the GOP side, lawmakers attempted to amend the bill to only allow for a lottery expansion, while Democrats continued to push for sports betting and expanded casino gambling. In the end, the GOP-controlled Alabama House did not schedule the bill for discussion. The legislative session ends soon, which means that the bill likely will not move forward.
House Democrats felt they didn’t get to make their case for amendments to the bill, while Republicans argued that they were more than willing to discuss and compromise, but there wasn’t enough time.
House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R) said:
We didn’t come to a compromise this afternoon. Not at 5:00 in the afternoon on the last day. That’s not the way we work on something. It’s not fair to our members, it’s not fair to the people of the state of Alabama, to put people in a position like that when they don’t have time to look at it and vet a bill that’s such a large bill.
Rep. Pebblin Warren (D), countered: “If you don’t have integrity when you’re dealing with gaming, you need to give it up. And what I have seen in this room tonight, integrity is nowhere around”.
Devastating rhetoric, but it won’t matter: the legislature will meet on May 17th and adjourn, which is not enough time to discuss and amend the bill in a meaningful way. Better luck next session, Alabamans.
Chris Altman is a traveling writer and content specialist covering everything from betting to plane crashes. He has been working in sports betting, specifically legislation for some time now, covering industry developments and the legal landscape of sportsbooks in the U.S. Chris is also a published short story writer and zine editor. Email: [email protected]More info on Chris Altman
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