The pickings for gambling in Alabama are slim, indeed. For the first two decades of the 21st century, rabid anti-gambling interests rule the state legislature all the way up to the governor’s office. The result is a paucity of any sort of games of chance anywhere in the state: Beyond the reservation land of the state’s Native Americans, you will find no horseracing, sports betting, casino gaming and even, in most counties, no *electronic bingo*.
What’s more, just 10 states (including Nevada, which carries a sizable asterisk) have no state lottery, and Alabama is one of them. Ten states block residents from playing at daily fantasy sports websites; Alabama is one of them. You get the idea: The current powers-that-be do not care for gambling *at all*
Population: 4,863,300 (off. 2016 est.)
Area: 52,419 sq. mi.
Gambling Age (Casinos): 19
Gambling Age (Lottery): n/a
Number of Casinos: 4
• Willie Mays Hank Aaron and Joe Louis were all born in Alabama.
• The first-ever Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S. was held in Mobile.
• The official state drink is Conecuh Ridge Whiskey.
• In Alabama, it is illegal to wear a false moustache that causes laughter in church
In 1901, the Alabama state constitution declared gambling (defined as “games of chance”) illegal. Things have became only marginally better for gambling interests thereafter; in the 1980s, mayors of Alabama’s bigger cities (Birmingham, Mobile, Tuskegee) put together legislation that would allow a state lottery and expansion of dog- and horse racing. And in the late 1990s, Gov. Don Siegleman tried to get a state lottery started, but his bill failed in the state legislature.
A loosening of laws for casino gambling in the 1990s (perhaps precipitated by the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988) was temporary. Governor Bob Riley’s anti-gambling task force went to work in 2010, immediately closing newly-founded “e-bingo parlors” in Fairfield, Bessamer, Selma and Montgomery were shut down. Several attempts to reopen such operations (particularly in Fairfield) lead only to re-closure.
Perhaps the most dramatically affected of all casinos in Alabama is Victoryland Casino. What was once the biggest casino in the state and a supplier of games for other Alabama venues was shut down in 2010, with all its games impounded. After lengthy court battles, Victoryland reopened in 2012, only to be closed in ’13. Re-reopening in September ’16, Victoryland is as of this writing open for business – but you’ll probably want to check the official website before visiting there.
Year 2016 was tumultuous in Alabama gambling, too: While Victoryland indeed reopened, the state supreme court ruled that the e-bingo parlors in Fairfield (and greater Jefferson County) could not. The supreme court also ruled in favor of the state on appeal that the games seized back in ’10 could be destroyed.
And yeah, Gov. Robert Bentley’s boys started the legal wheels turning on illegalized Alabama’s Native American-run casinos…
Beyond the Victoryland – again, check for current status before visiting – just three casinos on reservation land are open for business: The Creek Casino, the Creek Casino Wetumpka, and the Wind Creek Montgomery. All three outlets are run by the Poarch Band of Indians, have all been open for 10 years or so and should do brisk business for ome time to come … or until court order shuts ‘em down.
In addition to all the other, um, eccentricities in Alabama gambling law, there’s this odd legal age limit of 19, which is good for e-bingo parlors (in counties where legal), casinos or track racing. Yo, college types: Just be happy you have any places to go at all at this point…
Well, the most famous has gotta be Charles Barkley, right? Going back to his days as an NBA rookie dubbed “The Round Mound of Rebound,” “Sir Charles” has been the world’s most visible Alabaman, a status he still holds today. Back in the day, his million-dollar jags in Atlantic City were legendary; as Barkley, ages, however, he’s become a bit more serious about dropping so much money at the tables. He’s not anti-gambling per se, but is definitely a bit more sober about blowing big bucks, stating in a 2015 interview that he’d given up the hobby.
As stated above, beyond those casinos on the reservations, legal gambling is limited in Alabama on a county-by-county basis. In the great majority of counties, casino gambling is illegal altogether.
With the anti-gambling politicos in office, rollbacks on current restrictive laws seem unlikely. For the short-term future, the only venues certain to stay open are the Poach Band casinos – and the fate of these outlets could determine national law in the future.
In fact, those interested in gambling law (and federal law-making in general) will definitely want to keep an eye on the legal proceedings here for the remainder of the ‘10s. While it seems as though the current Alabama leadership will stop at nothing to rid the state of games of chance, the closure of the Indian-run casinos in Alabama will require an amendment to federal law, which means appealing all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And then things could get weird; on one hand, IGRA was passed by venerated Republican president Ronald Reagan. On the other hand, the 1980s was long ago…