Alabama Senate approves lottery, gambling bill including tribal compact; final outlook unclear

March 7, 2024 9:53 PM
Photo: Public domain via Good Free Photos
  • Kim Chandler, Associated Press
March 7, 2024 9:53 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Senate on Thursday advanced a scaled-back gambling proposal — allowing a state lottery and electronic wagering machines at several locations in the state — as lawmakers try to strike a compromise that can win the needed votes in both chambers.

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The 22-11 vote on the proposal came after a more sweeping House-passed plan that would include sports betting and multiple casinos with table games stalled in the Senate. The bill now goes back to the Alabama House, where lawmakers could go along with the changes or send the bill to conference committee.

“It’s true of any legislation, it’s trying to find what we can pass,” said state Sen. Greg Albritton, who made the Senate proposal.

The Senate plan would authorize a state lottery and require the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians that could pave the way for the tribe to have full-fledged casinos with table games at its three sites in the state.

It would allow seven locations, including the state’s four dog tracks, to have “historical racing computerized machines.” Those are a product that allows players to bet on replays of horse races. The newest of the devices can resemble slot machines. The seven sites would include the state’s four dog tracks located in Greene, Jefferson, Macon and Mobile counties. They could also be located at sites in Houston, Lowndes and an additional site in Greene County.

Republican Rep. Chris Blackshear, the sponsor of the House bill, said he will review the Senate changes over lawmakers’ spring recess next week.

“We want to take our time, be very deliberate,” Blackshear said.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton said he hopes the proposal will go to a conference committee where lawmakers can continue to negotiate.

“I think that conference is where we’ll be able to get a product out that will satisfy both Houses,” Singleton said. “I don’t know what that is going to look like. But we will have a comprehensive game plan, hopefully,” he said.

Supporters are trying to cobble together enough legislative support to get the issue before voters for the first time in 25 years. Alabama is one of the few states without a lottery. The issue of gambling last went before voters in 1999, when a lottery proposed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman was rejected.

If the Senate proposal is approved by both chambers of the Alabama Legislature, the proposal would go before voters on Sept. 10.

House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter said they will look at what comes out of the Senate.

“People want to vote. That’s what our polling show. It’s overwhelming that the people of Alabama want a chance to vote,” Ledbetter said.