Alabama lawmakers advocate for stricter gaming laws following illegal casino activities

December 1, 2023 3:15 PM
Photo: Courtesy
  • Conor Murphy, Special to CDC Gaming Reports
December 1, 2023 3:15 PM
  • Conor Murphy, Special to CDC Gaming Reports

Growing concern over illegal gaming has prompted State Representative Andy Whitt to advocate for more stringent statewide regulations in Alabama. Whitt’s stance comes in light of recent law enforcement actions, including a raid on a Lowndes County casino, White Hall Entertainment, which was closed on Tuesday.

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Whitt, representing Madison County, emphasized the long-standing nature of the issue, stating to WBRC 6, “This is something that has plagued the state for decades.” He highlighted the need for comprehensive legislation: “We need a clear and concise law that covers all 67 counties, and we need to make sure that any piece of legislation comes forth has this regulatory and strong enforcement piece with it.”

Alabama’s constitution allows certain gaming activities in over a dozen counties through amendments. However, Whitt is pushing for blanket penalties that would uniformly address illegal gaming across the state.

His involvement in over 40 cases of illegal gaming facilities, some owned by out-of-state entities, underscores his perception of these operations as organized crime. Whitt linked illegal gaming with broader societal issues, noting, “With that comes crime, comes violence, comes drugs. You name it, it’s probably there in those casinos.”

The economic impact of shutting down casinos, especially in economically disadvantaged areas, is a point of contention. State Representative Kelvin Lawrence highlighted the economic challenges faced by Lowndes County, describing the closure of such facilities as “unfortunate” for communities seeking economic development.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall enforced the closure of White Hall casino for violating a state Supreme Court order. Marshall’s actions align with the state’s legal stance against illegal gaming, yet they also brought forward a debate over such enforcement’s economic and social consequences.

As the Chair of the House Committee on Tourism and Economic Development, Whitt is in a pivotal position to influence gaming legislation. He has indicated this month that he and other lawmakers are beginning to draft ideas, stressing the urgency of addressing illegal gaming in the 2024 legislative session.

Whitt remarked to WSFA 12 about the prevalence of illegal gambling even reaching close to the Statehouse, saying, “I knew that illegal gambling was a problem when I walked just a couple of blocks from the Statehouse and was able to purchase a scratch-off.”

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians operate Alabama’s only casinos through its Wind Creek Hospitality arm.