State House passes gambling bill

Published 10:24 am Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Alabama State House Feb. 15 passed a comprehensive lottery and gaming bill, according to reports.

The legislation, HB 151 and 152, will now go to the Senate. If passed in the Senate, and Gov. Kay Ivey signs the bill, then voters will decide on the issue.

“I have long said the people of Alabama deserve to have another say on gaming, and today’s passage of HB151 and HB152 in the House is an important step forward and very significant, as this has not been accomplished by the House in years,” Ivey said in a statement. “The proposal passed by the House will clean up and crack down on the rampant illegal gambling and will give Alabamians the opportunity to have their say on regulated, limited forms of gaming. This is a tough, complex issue, and I commend Rep. Chris Blackshear, Rep. Andy Whitt and House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter for their leadership. I also commend each House member who voted today to limit, regulate and tax gaming and lottery activities in Alabama. I will remain engaged as this legislation moves to the Senate. In their current form, these bills will continue to have my support.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

According to HB 151, if ratified, would prohibit all forms of gaming in the state, with the exception of certain games authorized by the legislature, by general law, including a state lottery administered by a public corporation as an instrumentality of the state; casino-style games at no more than seven licensed gaming establishments; sports watering; traditional raffles; and traditional bingo. The bill also establishes a gaming commission within the executive branch with a law enforcement division to police and conduct all gaming activity in the state and eradicate unlawful gaming activity, according to the bill.

Additionally, the amendment requires Ivey to negotiate and execute a compact for Class III games and sports wagering with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. In return for the compact, the PBCI would be granted one of the seven licenses to conduct and operate casino-style games outside of lands held in trust.

Rep. Alan Baker voted for the bill, which passed in the House 86-14 with one absent.

Baker said the two bills include a constitutional amendment that goes before the people for a vote, and then the enabling legislation that allows for it to go through.

“There’s everything from lottery, sports betting, casinos and a regulatory body in the bill,” he said.

When asked if he knows when the Senate plans on voting on the bill, Baker said he didn’t know.

When asked the reason why he voted for the bill, Baker said it’s been his posture all along.

“There has been gaming legislation from both bodies,” he said. “Some have originated in House, and gone on to the Senate and died.”

From the feedback he’s gotten from his constituents, Baker said the citizens want guard rails for the legal and illegal gaming going on in the state; to stop the flow of Alabama dollars going to surrounding states; and the citizens want the right to vote on gaming.

Baker said if the measure passes and Ivey signs, the bill will be up for a vote on the General Election ballot on Nov. 5 2024.

“It’s the most comprehensive bill of date as far as gaming bills,” Baker said. “There seems to be a strong regulatory and enforcement piece of the bill. It allows some flexibility that these revenues will be spent for productive outcomes in Alabama, whether it be for mental health or rural hospitals to education, just a number of things there.”