At a press conference at the State Capitol on Wednesday, members of the Alabama House Gaming Study Group unveiled plans to introduce an exhaustive gambling bill that would legalize a lottery, sports betting, and several casino sites in the state. The legislative efforts will also address the issue of statewide illegal gambling across all 67 counties.
To authorize lottery and other gaming products in Alabama, citizens would have to vote in favor of an amendment to the constitution. As Representative Andy Whitt commented, illegal gambling was “a problem that has been lingering here for decades”, and that, “we have an opportunity to finally put a stop to it”. However, he emphasized that instead of being a supporter of gambling expansion, he was a “firm proponent of enforcing the law”.
The conference was preceded by the annual State of the State Address of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, delivered on Tuesday. During her address, she expressed her support for gambling legislation and identified it as one of the priorities for the 2024 legislative session.
Over the years, multiple efforts to legalize gambling in Alabama have collapsed. A statewide vote on a lottery in 1998 was the last time Alabama citizens had the chance to either support or oppose gambling in the state. The currently proposed measure would have to be approved by a three-fifths vote in the two legislative chambers. Then, Alabama citizens will be able to cast their vote and decide if they would welcome gambling.
State Senator Greg Albritton added that gaming legislation has been a priority for years and that it was an opportune moment to put gambling under “the authority of the state to be able to control it”.
Gambling Revenue Would Support Education and the State General Fund
Lawmakers confirmed that if authorized, lottery revenue would be utilized for related expenses and education. Proceeds from casinos and sports betting would be allocated to the state General Fund.
As per the proposed legislation, gambling operators would be selected via an open bid process. If approved, they would be subjected to a license fee of a minimum of $5 million and would be required to invest at least $35 million.
According to revenue projections of lawmakers, casinos would generate between $298 million and $422 million. Sports betting would account for $10 million, whereas a lottery would contribute approximately $194 million to the state budget. Overall, gambling would produce over $800 million in annual revenue for Alabama.
While casinos would be subjected to a 24% tax rate on their net revenue, sports betting operators would be taxed at 17%.
As a key takeaway, Representative Whitt pointed out that the main goal of the legislative efforts was to “run the bad actors out of the state”. Ultimately, he underlined the importance of the citizens’ right to vote on the issue of gambling legalization.