Gaming Critics Prevent Alabama Sports Betting From Getting Foothold in Legislature

Gaming Critics Prevent Alabama Sports Betting From Getting Foothold in Legislature
By Shelby Dermer
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

Last November, the Iron Bowl between in-state and SEC rivals Alabama and Auburn came down to the wire — both for casual football fans and sports bettors. 

Alabama, a 20.5-point favorite, trailed late before a 97-yard drive in the final minutes tied the game. Alabama went on to prevail in four overtimes, 24-22. 

The amount of money that changed hands in those final moments is unknown, but backers of Auburn, a +800 underdog on the moneyline, thought they had those tickets cashed. Alabama backers were not close on the spread, but moneyline parlays and futures for the Crimson Tide were still alive.

While legal winnings from that game were collected throughout the country, none of it came in the state the game was played. 

Alabama is one of five states without a state lottery (Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah), has no commercial casinos and no legal sports betting.

Alabama Sports Betting Makes No Progress in 2022

That will remain the case for the foreseeable future after legislation to add all three failed this session. As states across the nation continue to authorize sports betting — both in-person and online — Alabama remains without. Northern neighbor Tennessee, which passed legislation to legalize sports betting in 2019, saw nearly $3 billion wagered on sports in 2021. 

Tennessee and Mississippi, which permits on-site sports betting inside its casinos, will continue to be travel destinations for Alabama sports betting fans looking to wager on their favorite teams. 

The disappointment for Alabama residents is nothing new. In 2019 and 2020, sports betting legislation was introduced but failed to advance. Last year, SB 319 was passed by the Senate but couldn’t get past the House. 

This year, SB 294 was introduced by State Sen. Greg Albritton and called for the legalization of a state lottery and would allow online and retail sports betting at several Alabama casinos. The bill called for a 20% tax on net gambling revenues and would limit the number of licensed casinos to five locations, while giving licenses to some of the state’s existing dog tracks, according to the Alabama Daily News. 

It was approved by the Alabama Senate Tourism Committee and needed to be approved by a three-fifths majority in the Alabama House and Senate — votes that never came. 

Another bill from Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollingers Island, called for a state lottery. Brown pulled the bill after little support in the House GOP Caucus, per the Montgomery Advertiser.

Gaming Critics Rally Against Legislation

Groups like the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), Alabama Council on Compulsive Gambling (ACCG) and Stop Predatory Gambling have helped thwart the state’s efforts to bring sports betting into the fold. 

In a report by the Alabama Baptist, ACCG President Jack Galassini referenced a 2020 gambling commission that showed that 67,000 people would be affected if Alabama introduced sports betting and 5% (3,350) would form an addiction. 

Les Bernal, the national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, told the Alabama Baptist legal sports betting would be like, “opening a casino in everyone’s home, everyone’s phone, everyone’s computer.”

Critics of commercial gambling who warn of the dangers of sports betting have continued to win the fight as those concerns annually outweigh the financial benefits the state would reap. 

Albritton told Montgomery TV station WSFA that he would have to think about introducing the legislature again next session as the can continuously gets kicked down the road. 

Alabama is currently the favorite (+150) to win the 2023 college football national championship.

It will just take a road trip for Alabama residents to legally wager on it.

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Contributors

Shelby Dermer is a reporter & journalist for BetAlabama.com. Shelby has been a sports reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer for the last five years and now lends his expertise to the Alabama sports betting market. He grew up in Waynesville, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio University.

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