Though Alabama does not have a single franchise from any major professional sports league, the state’s passion for college athletics is unparalleled.
Alabama is the fourth-most valuable college football program in the country at $134 million, according to a 2021 report from GoBankingRates. Auburn, 156 miles southeast of Tuscaloosa, owns the ninth-most valuable program, coming in at $117 million.
On the hardwood, Auburn was at one point the No. 1 team in the Associated Press college basketball poll last season for the first time ever. The Tigers also made the Final Four in 2019. Alabama went to the Sweet 16 in 2021.
Outside of college athletics, the relaunched USFL is currently playing all of its regular-season games at Legion Field and Protective Stadium, both in Birmingham.
With numerous in-state options, there’s an appetite for sports betting. So, what would the landscape for legalized Alabama sports betting look like?
For the time being, it looks like a road trip. Alabama is one of the few states plodding along in the sports betting arms race as more and more states reap the benefits from it. Right now, Alabama residents looking to wager legally on sports can only do so in neighboring states like Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida.
Legislation that would have brought commercial casinos, sports betting and a state lottery to Alabama failed earlier this year, just the most recent in a string of legislative defeats for the pro-gambling crowd.
What Could Alabama Sports Betting Look Like
State Sen. Greg Albritton’s SB294 called for a limited number of mobile and retail sports betting licenses at casinos and would have granted licenses to some existing dog tracks. There would’ve been a 20% tax on net gambling revenues for casinos and sports betting. Plus, there would’ve been a compact that allowed casino-style gambling and sports betting at Poarch Band of Creek Indian sites, according to the Alabama Daily News.
Alabama currently has a trio of tribal casinos which are Class II Gaming Facilities, meaning only video bingo machines are permitted and table games are prohibited. Alabama also has two former greyhound tracks (Victoryland and Greenetrack) that offer these electronic bingo machines.
The gambling legislation would’ve created five casinos, four of them at dog tracks throughout the state like Greenetrack (Eutaw), Victoryland (Shorter), Birmingham Race Course, Mobile County Greyhound Racing Facility and a casino on lands obtained by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in either DeKalb County or Jackson County. Three other additional casinos of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would be allowed to have table games, according to SaturdayDownSouth.
The Montgomery Advertiser estimated sports betting would bring up to $700 million into Alabama and would create nearly 20,000 jobs.
Lottery estimates, per the Montgomery Advertiser, range from $272 to $358 million annually for the state.
The legislature last approved a lottery bill in 1999, which voters rejected in the fall. That started a two-decade run of Alabama gambling bills gaining traction before collapsing for a barrage of reasons.
Ultimately, this year was no different.
The sports betting market in Alabama is ready, but they’re left wondering when they’ll be given the green light.