House members in Alabama vote against amended gambling bills

Alabama Gambling Bills
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The Alabama House of Representatives is unhappy with changes to a pair of proposed lottery and parimutuel wagering bills.

On Thursday, the Alabama House voted to non-concur with amended versions of House Bill 151 and House Bill 152, two measures that propose to authorize a lottery, historical horse racing, and parimutuel wagering in the Heart of Dixie. The two bills, which would authorize wagering through a constitutional amendment, will now head to a conference committee for further consideration after nearly a month of inaction in the legislature.

“They had it for three weeks, we worked on it for 15 months, and I think there are some details we can provide to them that may help them understand why we sent the package that we did to them,” said Rep. Chris Blackshear earlier this week on the House floor.

In February, HB 151 and HB 152 were passed in the House after being referred to the Economic Development Committee. The two measures were approved with sports betting and non-tribal retail casino language included. Last month, the Alabama Senate removed the sports betting and retail casino language from the two measures. Their current versions make the Poarch Band of Creek Indians the exclusive operator of retail casino gambling.

Alabama House opposes revenue framework

The two measures have drawn concerns over their distribution of gambling revenue.

Current versions of HB 151 and HB 151 call for revenue to be split three ways to support education, infrastructure, and government expenses. House members have called for the bills to allocate all of gambling revenue toward education. According to Blackshear, Alabama could miss out on $400 to $500 million in revenue annually. He also estimates that Alabama could leave up to $1 billion on the table from fees associated with licensing.  

“From the very beginning, we had three key goals with the House’s comprehensive legislation,” said House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter in a press release. “Those included eliminating illegal gaming operations in the state of Alabama, developing a framework for the taxation and regulation of facilities that obtain licenses through an open-bid process, and establishing a lottery that benefits education and education only.”

HB 151 and HB 152 were expected to be included on the vote ballot in November while the Senate called for a special election in September. Lawmakers in the Heart of Dixie have until May 20 to decide the fate of the bills before the end of the state’s legislative session.

The Senate expects to appoint members to its conference committee next week.