Alabama lawmakers left millions of dollars on the table when the legislative session adjourned yesterday afternoon. A bill that would have legalized sports gambling, casino gaming and possibly even a lottery has spent the past several months in the political quagmire in Montgomery, the state’s capital, hoping to find a path toward acceptance. That path was blocked at several turns and finally ran into a brick wall in the House of Representatives. Now, at the very earliest, Alabama won’t see legalized gambling until at least 2025. This will undoubtedly place the state dead last on the list of legal gaming states.
Alabama Lawmakers Give Up Millions of Dollars
Senate Bill 319 (SB 319) made its way through the chamber where it originated last month. The fate of legalized sports gambling and regulated gaming then rested in the hands of the House, which took a first look at the bill on April 15. On May 4, the chamber took another look and a third reading, the one that would have definitively set the course for the bill, never occurred as the session ended yesterday.
SB 319 would have given voters the opportunity to decide whether or not to allow gambling expansion in the state, but the House lawmakers decided that this didn’t need to happen. Opponents of the bill argued that legalized gambling would create gambling addiction, despite the fact that legalized gambling is the only way to prevent the addiction. It’s known that gambling is already taking place, albeit illegally, and this means that not only can Alabama’s leaders not address the issues, but they also cannot capitalize on the revenue streams legalized gaming creates.
Back to the Drawing Board
With the inaction on the part of lawmakers, Alabamans can continue to gamble illegally until at least 2025 – that’s the earliest that a new legalization bill could now be approved. Voters would have been able to vote on gaming this November, which would have potentially led to its launch next year if the subject had received enough support. However, the next time a ballot entry could appear will be in 2024, with the possibility of legalized gaming coming the following year.
Some lawmakers and gambling opponents have questioned the morality of gambling as part of their defense in blocking attempts to see expansion. However, some could argue that it is immoral not to legalize the activity, allowing a number of individuals to experience gambling problems unchecked and without resources to find help. There’s also the question of the $700 million in annual revenue Alabama could have seen. That’s the figure most often projected in forecasts, which means Alabama lawmakers just let around $2.8 billion slip through their fingers.