Alabama Sports Betting: Lawmakers Hear Pros And Cons On Legalization

Alabama Sports Betting: Lawmakers Hear Pros And Cons On Legalization
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Alabama lawmakers heard Tuesday from a mix of supporters and opponents of omnibus legislation that would open the state to several forms of commercial gaming, including Alabama sports betting.

However, before that can happen, the legislature must approve two proposals. One would give Alabama voters a chance to amend the constitution to allow commercial casinos, sports betting and a state lottery. The other would establish gaming and lottery commissions to regulate the activities.

The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee held a hearing Tuesday on House Bills 151 (the amendment) and 152 (enacting legislation). Both are sponsored by state Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Smiths Station. The hearing was a precursor to a committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, where votes could be taken to send the measures to the House floor.

Committee members heard from 10 gaming proponents and nine people who spoke against the measures.

Alabama Gambling Would Generate Millions

Expanding legalized gambling has been long discussed in the state, which currently allows pari-mutuel wagering. Gov. Kay Ivey established a task force to examine the issue four years ago, and one of its members told the committee that the proposed legislation followed the group’s recommendations.

“My summary of the study of this bill is: Gaming will work in Alabama, and it will be worth it,” state Treasurer Young Boozer said.

HB 152 would allow the state to award up to seven Class III casino gaming licenses, with one set aside for the Alabama-based Poarch Band of Creek Indians pending an approved gaming compact. Casino licenses would cost at least $5 million, and operators would pay a 24% tax on net gaming revenues. According to the bill’s fiscal note, the state would be in line to receive between $315 million and $492.2 million each year.

There is no set number of sports betting licenses listed in HB 152. However, the fiscal note forecasts the state receiving between $15 million and $41.5 million based on a 17% tax on operator revenues from Alabama sports betting apps.

Another supporter who addressed lawmakers Tuesday was an Alabama native, FanDuel President Christian Genetski. He said the state is missing out on revenue as residents either travel to Florida, Mississippi or Tennessee to wager or they bet in other ways, like through an unregulated offshore app.

“I’ve got a lot of friends and classmates who are really telling me they’re ready to start betting legally in Alabama,” he said. “We know there’s a huge desire for sports betting in Alabama. Last year, there were 2 million attempts to place a legal bat here in Alabama, and every single one of those was blocked.”

The fiscal note indicated that legalizing a state lottery would also generate up to nearly $380 million annually.

HB 152 only needs a simple majority in both chambers to pass. However, since HB 151 proposes an amendment to the state constitution, it would require a three-fifths majority – 63 out of 105 House members and 21 out of 35 senators – to pass.

Opponent: Legalizing Gambling Is Anti-Liberty

While the committee heard from opponents who railed on gambling as a vice and moral hazard to Alabama residents, members also heard from others who had other takes on why they do not want to see the state legalize an activity that many want.

D.J. Parten from the American Action Fund, which he said was the Young Americans for Liberty’s grassroots division, told lawmakers the group seeks to defeat measures “that would infringe upon our liberties.” That includes the two gaming bills that would expand state coffers, create a new law enforcement division and enact new criminal laws.

“They create a new government-sponsored gambling operation, and they limit free market competition by benefiting a handful of special interests at the expense of the people of Alabama,” he said.

He also called on lawmakers who oppose gambling to not take the easy way out.

“One of the common phrases that will be heard in the halls of the legislature is, ‘I’m going to vote for it today and vote against it on the ballot,’” Parten said. “That’s not a principled stance. It’s avoidance of your duty as an elected official to make a strong, principled vote for the people of your district.” is your source for the best Alabama sports betting promo codes when they become available. We also have the latest news on gaming measures in the Alabama legislature and sports analysis pieces on the Crimson Tide, Tigers and other Alabama teams.



Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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