Senate passes two gaming measures in Alabama amid flurry of changes

Alabama Senate
Image: Shutterstock

An Alabama gaming measure has passed in the Senate following a myriad of changes.

The Alabama Senate Committee has voted in favor of two pieces of legislation that would authorize a state lottery and a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. House Bill 151, which calls for a constitutional amendment passed by a 22-11 vote in the Senate, while its companion measure, House Bill 152, passed by the same margin. The two measures were passed after an amendment earlier this week that removed sports betting and retail casinos.

As a result of the changes, HB 151 and 152 propose to only authorize a lottery, historical horse racing and parimutuel wagering. The bills also aim to crack down on illicit wagering and will allow seven tribal casinos across the state to offer parimutuel and horse betting.

The seven casinos would be taxed between 24 to 32% on gross gambling revenue.

“Our government was founded on the principle that it is by the people and for the people,” Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed told committee members on Thursday. “Nothing is more foundational to our country than giving people the ability to vote at the ballot box, and I trust the will of the people of Alabama.”

Under their latest amendments, HB 151 and HB 152 could see a state lottery generate between $305 million to $379 million in net revenue annually, while parimutuel wagering could net up to $132 million. Revenue would be split three ways to support education, infrastructure, and government expenses.

Still progress to be made in Alabama

In February, HB 151 and HB 152 were heard in the House where they were approved after being considered by the Economic Development Committee. The House approved HB 151 with a 70-32 vote while HB 152 was passed by a 67-31 vote. However, the measures passing in the House excluded the latest amendments put forth by the Senate.

“We have gotten so far but we’ve still got a long ways to go because the variances are so great,” Sen. Greg Albritton told after Thursday’s committee hearing. “We’ve got a lot of hard hammering to do in the next few days because they’re very different.”

As a result of changes in the Senate, HB 151 and HB 152 will now go back to the House to be considered once again. If signed into law, 17 local constitutional amendments would be repealed to authorize gaming under a newly established Alabama Gambling Commission.

If approved by the House, a special election vote on the bills will take place on Sept. 10.