February 14, 2024 3 min read

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Alabama Considers Major Gambling Expansion with Unexpected Supporters

Holly McCorkle from the Alabama Council for Behavioral Health and John Kilpatrick from Alabama Veterans Recovery Resources expressed their support for the proposed gambling bills, highlighting the importance of securing a new revenue stream for mental health services

Representatives from mental health organizations voiced tentative support for proposed Alabama bills that could pave the way for widespread online sports betting, retail sports betting, casinos, and lotteries across the state.

Alabama Mental Health Advocates Call for Increased Funding Amid Gambling Expansion Debate

During a hearing before the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, Holly McCorkle of the Alabama Council for Behavioral Health and John Kilpatrick of Alabama Veterans Recovery Resources refrained from outright opposition to the bills. Instead, they emphasized the need for increased funding for mental health services in the state.

McCorkle emphasized the necessity of a new revenue stream for mental health, stating that they supported the proposal because mental health desperately needed it. 

Kilpatrick echoed her sentiments, highlighting the plight of veterans and emphasizing the importance of ensuring that a significant portion of the generated funds is allocated to mental health and veterans’ services.

The proposed bills, HB 151 and 152, mark a significant potential expansion of gambling in Alabama, a state currently without a lottery but home to Indian gaming operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians at three casinos.

If passed, the legislation would permit up to 10 brick-and-mortar casinos, including existing tribal locations, along with additional tribal and non-tribal gaming facilities. 

Advocates Highlight Consumer Protections, Critics Raise Societal Concerns

However, concerns have been raised regarding the current wording of the bills, particularly by Robbie McGhee, representing the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. McGhee expressed reservations about certain aspects of the legislation but affirmed the tribe’s overall support for expanding gaming.

FanDuel president Christian Genetski, an Alabama native, testified in favor of the proposals, highlighting the demand for legal wagering among Alabamians. Genetski emphasized the importance of consumer protections provided by the legal market, including robust responsible gambling measures.

Despite some vocal support, opposition to the bills also emerged during the hearing. Individuals with a history of compulsive gambling, as well as organizations such as the Public Policy Institute and the Alabama Farmers Federation (AFF), raised concerns about the potential societal impacts of expanded gambling.

Tim Richie, a former compulsive gambler, cautioned against the negative consequences of gambling addiction, while Preston Roberts of the AFF argued that the bills would primarily benefit gambling operators and weaken communities.

Previously, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama addressed the 2024 legislative session, particularly supporting the current proposal for gambling expansion in the state. With the hearing concluded, the Economic Development and Tourism Committee is now poised to vote on the bills. The committee is scheduled to reconvene on February 14 to further deliberate on the issue.

Author

Silvia has dabbled in all sorts of writing – from content writing for social media to movie scripts. She has a Bachelor's in Screenwriting and experience in marketing and producing documentary films. With her background as a customer support agent within the gambling industry, she brings valuable insight to the Gambling News writers’ team.

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