Gambling bills resurface: Senate sends bill package to House

Published 8:11 pm Friday, April 16, 2021

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Never say never when it comes to the Alabama Legislature.

This week, the Alabama Senate passed a full blown gambling bill sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville. According to political analyst Steve Flowers, McClendon’s bill was a simple lottery bill that got amended on the Senate floor to encompass all aspects of gambling in the state.

“I was surprised it came back up,” Flowers said. “They changed a lottery bill to a casino bill. It was modified on the floor and passed by a 23-9 vote, which were two more votes than they needed. But, it still has to pass the House.”

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Establishing gambling in Alabama requires a constitutional amendment. In order for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot for a vote by the people, a bill must pass by a 3/5th majority vote. In the Alabama Senate, 21 votes are needed for the 3/5th majority.

Earlier this session, Sen. Del Marsh’s gambling bill failed to pass the 3/5th test when it was defeated 19-13. Flowers said the bill passed last week was essentially the same bill, but there were some minor differences.

McClendon’s bill would allow for casinos in locations where some form of gambling is already established — Green County at Greentrack, Houston County at Crossing at Big Creek, Jefferson County at the Birmingham Race Course, Macon County at Victoryland, Mobile County at the Greyhound Racing Facility, and the Poarch Creek Indians at a location to be determined in Jackson or DeKalb counties.

The gambling license for all locations are up for bid and the owners of existing locations have the right to make a final bid to exceed the highest bidder.

The bill allows for casino gambling in the approved covered locations as well as sports betting and a lottery.

In addition, Marsh sponsored three supplemental gambling bills that were all passed by the Senate. The three bills would establish the Alabama Lottery Corporation, the Alabama Gaming Commission and the third bill was an anti-corruption bill that established gambling related crimes and penalties.

Flowers isn’t so sure there are enough votes in the House for the bill to pass.

“It’s now in the House,” Flowers said. “I had lunch with some members of the House and from them. I don’t think there are enough votes for it to pass. The Democrats will all vote against it. They need 9 votes for it to pass. A lot of the House members think their constituents want to vote on a lottery bill. I’m not so sure they thing the constituents want to vote on casino gambling.”