Alabama has repeatedly shown significant resistance to the idea of casino gambling; however, lawmakers aren’t giving up. The state’s next legislative session will see the introduction of new lottery and casino legislation. The goal is to get the measure before voters in November. However, the prospects for getting the measure in front of voters are uncertain as there are primaries this spring.
If at First You Don’t Succeed
Republican Senator Greg Albritton announced that he would introduce a constitutional amendment to include a state lottery and a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. He explained that it’s time for the issue to be settled once and for all and that “waiting another year is not going to help” the state. He argues that the repeated attempts at legalizing casinos are just wasting money.
Last year, the Alabama Senate approved a constitutional amendment to establish a state lottery and allow nine casinos in the state. However, the measure was blocked in the House of Representatives.
Albritton told local media that his goal was to find a way to win the votes needed.
In the past, gambling legislation has failed due to opposition from conservative lawmakers and turf battles over who would receive lucrative casino licenses. Companies behind greyhound race tracks and bingo parlors argue that the Poarch Creek Band of Indians shouldn’t be allowed to continue to hold a monopoly.
Changes Might Not Come in ’22
Some members of the Republican leadership doubt that any gambling legislation will be passed. A key member stated that lawmakers will face primaries in May, which raises both election concerns as well as time constraints for the 2022 session.
The chairman of the House general funds budget committee, Representative Steve Clouse, said, “I would be very surprised if it would pass in a regular session in an election year. By the time we get toward to end of March or the first of April, people are going to be antsy to get out of there.”
The vice-chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Council, Robbie McGhee, added, “I think this is the perfect opportunity to say, ‘That I’m going to give the power to people to make this decision.”
The Senate passed a bill last year that would have authorized casinos to be operated by the tribe. It would have also given existing electronic bingo and dog track operators an advantage when trying to win the casino licenses.
It is not clear what the bill for this year would mean for these sites. Albritton stated that he believed they could receive an interim license until the permanent rules were established.