Alabama’s Push to Legalize Gambling Hits a Wall in the State Senate

  • Key takeaway one: Alabama's legislative efforts to legalize gambling, including a state education lottery and electronic games of chance, failed during the final day of the state's legislative session.
  • Key takeaway two: The bills received approval in the House but did not make it to a Senate vote, with a key sponsor flipping his vote to a "no."
  • Key takeaway three: The proposed legislation aimed at introducing a variety of gaming options, but sports betting was notably excluded.

In a dramatic turn of events that left many Alabamians in suspense, the state's latest attempt to legalize gambling fizzled out in the Senate, marking yet another setback for gaming advocates. This failure came despite initial optimism fueled by the Alabama House's approval of crucial gaming bills.

On April 30, the Alabama House of Representatives showed significant support for the gaming legislation, with House Bill 151 and House Bill 152 passing with votes of 72 to 29 and 70 to 29, respectively. These bills, authored by Rep. Russell Blackshear, were designed to revolutionize Alabama's gaming landscape, introducing a state education lottery, electronic games of chance, and various traditional gambling forms. However, tables, cards, dice, and dealers remained off the table, adhering to Alabama's conservative stance on gambling.

The proposed legislation also sought to establish an Alabama educational lottery exclusively for paper play, while permitting electronic games of chance at seven specific locations across the state. This move was aimed at tightly controlling the expansion of gambling within Alabama, requiring any further growth to undergo legislative approval and a statewide vote.

Despite the House's enthusiasm, the bills' journey came to a halt in the Senate. Senator Greg Albritton, a Republican from Baldwin County and the bills' Senate sponsor, unexpectedly announced he would vote against the legislation he once supported. This shocking reversal left the bills one vote shy of the necessary 21 for passage, effectively killing the proposal for the session.

The collapse of these bills underscores the complex and often contentious nature of gambling legislation in Alabama. Despite the potential economic benefits and the allure of generating additional revenue for education, gambling remains a divisive issue. The creation of the Alabama Gaming Commission, as proposed in HB152, highlighted the state's intention to establish a regulatory framework to oversee legalized gambling and curb illegal activities. However, this vision will remain unrealized, at least for the time being.

Governor Kay Ivey's decision not to call a special session on the gaming bills signals a significant pause in the push for legalized gambling in Alabama. This decision leaves gaming advocates to regroup and reconsider their strategy in a state that last saw gambling on the ballot in 1999, when it was soundly defeated.

As the dust settles, Alabamians and lawmakers alike are left to ponder the future of gambling in the state. The failure of these bills not only reflects the ongoing debate over gambling's place in Alabama but also the intricate dance of politics, where alliances and opinions can shift, leaving proposed laws to die on the legislative floor.

For more information and updates on this evolving story, follow Victor Hagan, the Alabama Election Reporting Fellow for the USA TODAY Network.

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