Alabama’s controversial constitutional amendment to establish a state lottery was passed in the state’s Senate by a vote of 23-9 on Tuesday, April, 27. The amendment has comprised the framework for statewide lottery and casino-style gaming industries.
While the state Senate has passed the legislation, SB319, and companion bills by a wide margin, the Alabama House of Representatives will be the next hurdle to overcome for legal lottery and casino games in Alabama.
Should the House pass a finalized form of the bill, Alabama voters will ultimately have the final say on whether these industries contribute to the state’s economy.
The proposed Alabama State Lottery will establish a lottery industry that will allow people to purchase lottery tickets at both retail locations and online.
In a local news interview, Sen. Jim McClendon said, “Every time I go back to my district, the message is clear: People want to have the right to vote on a state lottery and gaming. I appreciate the input from my colleagues in the Senate and the willingness of members of the House of Representatives and the governor’s office to participate in a discussion about this transformational issue for our state. I am hopeful about the potential of getting this constitutional amendment in front of Alabamians so that they have a chance to make the final call on this critical decision for the future of our state.”
Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton gave his opinion on the efforts to establish legalized gaming in Alabama, stating, “This has been a long time coming. The people of Alabama deserve the right to be able to vote on gaming, and they have wanted this chance for the past 20 years. This vote will allow our residents to finally reap the benefits of gaming by allowing those who play games in Georgia, Mississippi, Florida or Tennessee to now play those same games at home. This vote has the potential to be a major game-changer for our education and health care systems. I’m proud to be a part of this legislative body, and this is a great day for the state of Alabama.”
Governor Kay Ivey established a task force to investigate the viability of gaming industries in Alabama early last year. That team of evaluators was composed of local politicians, business owners and clergy. Together, the group of 12 spent time gathering research on the benefits and drawbacks of new markets, including lottery and casino gaming.
The group, called the Governor’s Study Group on Gambling, found that the new markets could potentially produce more than $700 million in annual revenue for the state. The legislation would also establish oversights and constraints on the industry to ensure that lottery and casino operators do so within the confines of rigid requirements and safeguards.
The regions earmarked for proposed gaming establishments include:
- Jefferson County
- Mobile County
- Macon County
- Greene County
- Houston County
- Jackson or DeKalb County
In addition to outlining the framework for lottery and casino operations, SB319 provides for the establishment of the Alabama Gaming Commission and addresses the entitlements afforded to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Along with SB391, the Alabama Senate approved a trio of gaming-related companion bills.
- SB309 – A document outlining the duties of the Alabama Lottery Corporation, the establishment of a lottery trust fund from which collected proceeds will be put toward college scholarships, the procedure to address unclaimed lottery winnings and the requirements for retailers that intend to sell lottery tickets.
- SB310 – A document establishing the Alabama Gaming Commission, should the bill be approved by voters, along with provisions for proceeds to be earmarked for mental health and rural hospitals, and the implementation of a $750 million broadband access initiative.
- SB311 – A document outlining the restrictions surrounding specific campaign contributions and addressing the types of criminal activity associated with gaming industries.
Opposition to the bill has accelerated following its passage in the Senate. With just three days remaining in the current legislative session, opponents of the bill are pulling out all the stops they can to try to ensure that voters kill the bill.
The new complaint to combat legalize gambling in Alabama is spearheaded by … no one. That’s right: A campaign of anonymous and automated text messages is targeting voters, urging recipients to stand against the bill if it comes down to a citizens’ vote.
Rep. Juanadlyn Givan received one such SMS decrying the progress of legal gaming laws in the state’s legislative bodies. The text message, which was sent out to districts across the state, read simply, “The big casino bill is not a lottery bill. Don’t fall for the Lie.” Her response was candid. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, what is this?’” she said. “First of all, Standridge is not my representative, and I’m a member of the House of Representatives, and I have nothing or no knowledge of anything to do with a crime boss or this bill being a ruse for something else.”
Rep. Corey Harbison and his district received the mass messages too. In the face of anonymous opposition, he said, “I know several representatives who have always said they’re going to oppose any style of gaming in Alabama, and the text even went out in their districts as well.”