Alabama Lawmakers File Bills to Legalize State Lottery, Sports Betting

The Alabama Legislature has seen a flurry of activity regarding gambling legislation this week.

Thursday was a particularly busy day as a Senate committee heard testimony on two bills regarding a state lottery. In addition, a state representative filed his second bill in three days regarding sports betting.

One reason for the amount of legislation could be the lack of gambling opportunities in the state. Currently, the state allows only pari-mutuel betting on greyhounds and horse racing, along with bingo. The Porach Creek Indians also run three casinos in the state, but none offer table games.

Lottery Bills Discussed

Alabama remains one of just five states that does not offer a lottery, joining Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.

However, two state Senators have sponsored bills that would call for an amendment to the state Constitution and allow for one. The amendment would require voters to pass the measure in an election.

State Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) filed Senate Bill 130 last month. His bill would allow the state lottery to use video terminals for such activities as keno, iLottery, and multistate games. However, in a bill filed Tuesday by state Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Range), his proposed lottery would only allow paper ticketed lottery games.

McClendon’s bill establishes a 22 percent gross receipts tax on gaming revenue. It also estimates the lottery would generate $237 million annually. His bill also would open the door to sports betting in the state, although it would allow the legislature to establish the tax rate on those receipts

Albritton estimates his lottery proposal, Senate Bill 220, would generate more than $166 million each year. The initial proceeds from the lottery pay back the Alabama Trust Fund for nearly $184 million transferred from it to the state’s general fund in previous years. After repayment, the two funds would begin splitting the proceeds evenly.

The Senate Tourism Committee heard testimony on both bills. The panel, however, took no vote on either.

The Eagle Forum of Alabama, a conservative grassroots organization, opposes both bills. In an interview with News Radio WLWI-AM in Montgomery, Executive Director Becky Gerritson said while it seems like a lottery would generate a lot of money, it would not produce many jobs and would create more addiction problems for the state to address.

I really feel that the negatives the lottery brings really outweigh the good that it’s going to do,” Gerritson said.

Sports Betting Bills Introduced

State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) filed two sports betting bills in the state House this week.

On Tuesday, he filed House Bill 315 that would create the Alabama Sports Wagering Commission. Rogers’ bill also would allow racetracks and bingos in the state to accept sports bets. It also would allow for mobile applications.

The state would collect a 10 percent tax on adjusted gross receipts.

On Thursday, Rogers filed another bill, House Bill 358, that would allow Alabama cities to pass ordinances legalizing betting on professional, collegiate and amateur events.

Neither of Rogers bills has been heard by a House committee.

Rogers’ bills now mean there are 25 states in the country currently with active sports betting legislation. Eight states currently allow it, while legislation has been passed in three other states.

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