Alabama Gambling Legislation Falls One Vote Short in Senate

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Alabama Gambling Legislation Falls One Vote Short in Senate
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The Alabama House of Representatives passed a compromise set of gambling bills on Tuesday, but the measure came up one vote short of the required 60 percent in the Alabama Senate later the same day. 

The conference committee proposal passed the House by wide margins on Tuesday, with a vote on the bill to amend the state constitution to allow gambling (HB 151) passing 72-29, and the other bill specifying the nature of gambling in the state (HB 152) passing 70-29 with one abstention.

Four Days to Find One More Vote 

The Senate then voted 20-15 in favor of concurring with the conference committee – sufficient for that purpose, but one vote short of the necessary 21 votes needed to hit the 60 percent threshold needed to ultimately pass the bills.

“We adopted the conference committee report with less than 21 votes,” Senate Secretary Pat Harris told Alabama reporters. “It means you have to re-pass the bill. Before we had an opportunity to re-pass the bill, they moved to carry it over, and the body carried the bill over.”

However, there is still time for the Senate to pick up the bill during the final four days of the 2024 legislative session. 

“We had a vote that ended up being a test vote,” Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed said to the statehouse press. “The bills are carried over, so the legislation is still available for us to continue to debate it.”

If the Senate can pass the bill by the end of the session, the proposal would go to Alabama voters on an Aug. 20 ballot.

Compromise Limits Casino Gaming, Nixes Sports Betting

The conference committee was required after the House and Senate passed bills with two very different visions of gambling’s future in Alabama. 

The House package allowed for full brick-and-mortar casinos, regulated sports betting, and a state lottery. The Senate version didn’t include sports betting at all, and only allowed the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to offer casinos.

In the compromise legislation that emerged from the conference committee, the statewide lottery would benefit educational programs. Electronic gaming only would be allowed in specific racetracks and bingo halls, while the governor would be asked to create a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. No sports betting provisions were included.

Several House members praised the compromise bills during debate.

“What I appreciate more about this legislation and the efforts that you and your committee made is that you listened to the voices of the people,” State Rep. Ontario Tillman (D-Birmingham) said. “You heard the mandate of the people who are requesting gaming in the state of Alabama, particularly the lottery in the state of Alabama.”

Others noted that allowing gambling in Alabama would still dollars from flowing into neighboring states that offer lotteries and other gaming options.

“The bottom line is there’s no telling how many roads Alabama has paved or how many children Alabama has sent to college in neighboring states,” said House Speaker Nathanial Ledbetter (R-Rainsville). “I’m hopeful that the Senate will follow the House’s lead and send this legislation to the governor.”

Yet the Senate came up one vote short of cleaning passing the compromise bills. Senator Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) opposed the bill, saying that he thought it would hurt those who could least afford to play the lottery.

“This is selling hope $3 at a time,” Roberts told his Senate colleagues. 

Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) still felt the bill offered too much gambling in the state.

“I feel like the bill basically allows full-scale Las Vegas-style casino gambling statewide,” Mooney said, . “You know obviously no physical cards, dice, roulette wheels or dealers. But if it is on a screen, you can play it.”