Alabama’s gambling future uncertain after Constitutional Amendment failure 

Published 10:27 am Thursday, July 4, 2024

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Earlier this month, HB151, a constitutional amendment that would legalize lottery and electronic casino gambling in Alabama, went to the Senate. 20 senate members voted in favor, but 15 members voted against. 

As is standard in the US federal government, a senate rule requires a supermajority of three-fifths. This would mean that HB151 required 21 members out of the Alabama Senate’s 35 members total in order to pass – in other words, it lost by a single vote. 

This slight amendment failure means that Alabama voters won’t get to vote on whether or not gambling should be legalized in the state this year.

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The bill proposed numerous changes to the legality of gambling in the state, including the legalization of an education-funding lottery and the opening of three casinos on tribal lands. 

It’s worth noting that HB151 excluded online sports betting, even though placing bets on live events is highly popular throughout the US. Gambling expert Khadija Bilal states that the wagering and betting industry will reach 49.3 million users in 2027, so it’s interesting that HB151 did not include sports betting. 

The failure of HB151 is nothing new, given that the Alabama Senate has been debating whether or not to legalize gambling for 25 years now. This is despite growth in public favor towards the establishment of a lottery and casinos. 

Based on recent polls, Alabama voters appear to be generally in favor of expanded gambling rights. 

Additionally, many have been critical of the Senate, including political science professor Jess Brown, over the amount of potential revenue the state has lost by not legalizing and establishing a lottery. This money could have been invested back into education and other public services – as HB151 suggested. 

A study conducted by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama suggested that the state could pull in $749 million from legalized gambling

Several members initially voted in favor of the bill but later backed down due to various reasons. Sen. Greg Albritton, for example, decided against HB151 due to the limited state compact mechanisms and restrictions on PCI. 

Senators Lance Bell and Chris Elliott backed down due to permissive language and various concerns related to the expansion of electronic casino gambling

Several other senators highlighted the social and economic impact of gambling as their reasons for voting against the bill. 

On the other hand, those who represent border districts argued that they face the issue of Alabama residents crossing borders into neighboring states where gambling is legal to buy lottery tickets. 

For example, the neighboring state of Florida, which is one of the biggest lottery-playing states in the US, brought in the highest level of lottery sales in 2021 with $8.6 billion spent on tickets. It is thought that a lot of participants come from other states. 

If an Alabama lottery were to be set up, fewer Alabamians would cross state borders and support other states’ lotteries. 

Overall, despite the public’s growing favor towards gambling, it remains a highly contested issue in the Alabama Senate.