Alabama Lottery Hopes Held Up By Dispute On Sports Betting, Casinos

During the 2024 legislative sessions, both the Alabama House and Senate have approved moving forward with a state lottery. This would finally allow residents to participate in things like draw lottery games such as Powerball and Mega Millions.

However, disagreements over other forms of gambling in the state are holding up the process.

The debate over sports betting, casino expansion, and where funds would be allocated have the two sides far apart.

Because of that, the potential for an Alabama Lottery sits in waiting. It could end up a casualty over disagreements on the other topics.

Timeline of events for Alabama gambling

There’s been a lot of movement with the legislation that would bring gambling to Alabama.

House establishes two bills

During the 2024 legislative sessions, the Alabama House of Representatives crafted two bills that were ultimately sent to the Senate.

The first was HB151, which would remove the state’s prohibition on gambling.

The second bill was HB152, which would legalize casino gaming in specific locations, sports betting, and a statewide lottery.

In the original version of HB152 that was sent to the Senate, it called for up to 10 casinos to be established with table games. The legislation also would have created a state commission to regulate gambling. It would see the commission negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a federally recognized tribe in the state that would be able to expand its current gaming locations to full casinos with table games.

Senate makes major changes

The Alabama Senate received the bills early in March, but made drastic changes to HB152. Sports betting was taken out of the bill and fewer casinos were to be established.

Also, the Senate’s version would allow a state lottery, as well as electronic wagering machines at dog tracks and other locations.

It also would require the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Another change the Senate made was in regard to where gambling proceeds would go.

The House would like all lottery proceeds to be directed toward education programs. The casino and sports betting revenue would benefit other programs, like health care.

The Senate would see funding split between education programs, road and bridge repair, along with a general fund. The Senate believes its plan would generate $350 million more annually for the state than the House bill.

House rejects Senate’s changes

On Thursday, the Alabama House vehemently declined the Senate’s changes to the legislation.

Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Smiths Station) was one of the most outspoken on the matter on Thursday on the floor:

“They had it for three weeks, we worked on it for 15 months, and I think there are some details we can provide to them that may help them understand why we sent the package that we did to them.”

The bills have now been sent to a conference committee where House and Senate members will try to find a compromise.

“I think we’ve got to identify what that middle ground is first because it’s such a distance between the two. They’re not even close bookends. So we’ve got to first off establish what that middle ground looks like and then have those conversations,” Blackshear said.

What’s next for an Alabama Lottery?

A timetable for when the committees will meet has not been set.

Finding a compromise could be tough as minority Democrats needed some assurances in the bills in order to support them in the House and Senate.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) has stated that he won’t support a gambling package that lacks health care expansion or a cost-of-living increase for state retirees.

State Rep. Reed Ingram (R-Pike Road) voted “no” on the original house bill, and during a recent radio interview, said he’s not going to support anything other than a lottery:

“I’m not ever going to vote for anything but giving the people just to vote on a lottery.”

Any gambling proposal would need to be approved by three-fifths of the lawmakers in Alabama, as well as a majority of the voters.

Alabama hasn’t voted on a state lottery since it was rejected in 1999.

The legislative session for Alabama will conclude on May 20.

Opinion: Lottery an unnecessary victim in gambling dispute

What’s clear in this dispute between the Alabama House and Senate is that both feel putting a lottery up to the voters is a good idea.

But, being lumped in with the complications of sports betting and casino expansion is holding it back.

Lottery is a far less complicated matter to regulate than its gambling peers.

If the only issue that is holding up a lottery is funding allotment, that’s a debate I think Alabama legislators can find a middle ground.

Alabama is just one of five states without a lottery. That’s a lot of lost dollars that could help fund programs in the state.

Rest assured, Alabama residents are still going to find ways to participate in $1 billion Mega Millions or Powerball jackpots. They will just be giving their money to other state’s funds.

Over these next couple of months, hopefully, Alabama can find a compromise on these bills. If not, it may be time to look at separating the lottery in its own bill and give voters a chance to chime in.

 

Photo by PlayiLottery

About the Author

Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis

Lead Writer
A member of Catena Media since 2020, Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer at PlayiLottery, where he handles coverage of the online and retail lottery industry in the US. He previously spearheaded news content at PlayMichigan, where he covered one of the most prominent online lottery industries in the US — among the many other aspects of Michigan's sprawling iGaming market. You can email him at [email protected].
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