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Melanie Porter January 11, 2024 3 min read
Alabama House Republicans Talk about Upcoming Gambling Bill
Alabama House Republicans have held a closed-door meeting in which they debated the gambling bill that GOP lawmakers will soon introduce for the upcoming annual legislative session
Earlier in the week, members of the Alabama House Republican party met for talks behind closed doors. One of the topics on their agenda was the gambling bill that GOP lawmakers are planning to introduce for the upcoming annual legislative session that will be held in less than a month.
“It’s Simply the Wild West” and It Needs to Be Addressed
According to Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Harvest, the head of the group of legislators responsible for assessing gambling in the past 14 months, the new bill was still incomplete.
However, Whitt expressed his view that the bill should be a comprehensive one. Namely, it will incorporate casinos, lotteries, sports betting, and a regulatory commission.
Reinstating his declared goal to crack down on illegal gambling operations occurring in the “Heart of Dixie,” Whitt took the opportunity to describe the current state of things as “simply the wild west,” referring to the illegal gambling problem.
Touching on the topic of lotteries, Whitt gave the example of Ardmore, his hometown, where school buses sometimes need to be diverted on days when the lottery jackpots reach very high figures because of the heavy traffic going into the neighboring states that offer the respective draws, which is not the case of Alabama.
The issue has not been addressed in over 25 years, which is why Whitt is determined to “try to bring some finality to that” while cleaning up gaming.
The Chances Are Better in 2024
House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, has also expressed his support for fresh legislation that would finally regulate gambling in the state.
Support in the Republican caucus is critical since the GOP carries three-fourths of the seats in the House. Whitt believes “the chances are better (this year),” expressing hope they would manage to get the bill on the floor and see it be further passed up to the Senate.
At the same time, Gov. Kay Ivey, who has already expressed support for the comprehensive bill three years ago, has not changed her stance, also expressing her belief that the issue should be rapidly tackled.
Ivey explained that a change in the state’s gambling law translates to a change brought to the Constitution, which needs to “go to the ballot for the people of Alabama to decide.”
Her support for the gambling bill arose in 2021 after appointing a study group on gambling policy that released a report at the end of 2020 which estimated Alabama would net as much as $300 million every year if it would turn a lottery, as much as $400 million from casinos, and at least $10 million from sports betting.
The same report explained the opening of a gambling market would open up to 19,000 new job positions.
Finally, Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City said he believed the 2024 bill would be ready prior to the legislative session that will begin on February 6.