Alabama lawmakers will review a new sports betting bill aimed at legalizing the online and retail industry, as the new session opened yesterday.
Despite numerous attempts in the past, sports betting is not regulated in the Yellowhammer State. The most recent attempt was also sponsored by Rep. John Rogers when he filed HB 336. The proposed measure was not passed since the state legislature was prorogued until late April due to the pandemic. Now, Rogers has renewed his efforts to regulate sports betting by introducing a new bill, HB 161, allowing wagering on both professional and college sports within the jurisdiction of Alabama.
Another HB 199 also seeks to amend Section 65 of the Alabama constitution to establish a state lottery.
Further Details of the Bill
HB 161 bill creates the Alabama Sports Wagering Commission to control the new market. The proposed Commission would be authorized to issue a maximum of seven licenses for sportsbooks at the cost of $100,000 per license. These licenses would be renewable after five years, with a renewal fee of another $100,000. In addition, HB 161 also imposes a weekly 10% tax on licensees’ gross sports wagering receipts.
The bill allows anyone who is 21 or above to bet on professional and college sports. Also, retail sports betting could take place at licensed gaming establishments such as bingo halls or racetracks, but it is worth noting that Alabama has no commercial casinos. The $100,000 license includes the option to provide mobile/online betting and gaming facilities that could partner with mobile sportsbooks to offer betting across the state.
HB 161 would also set up a Sports Wagering Fund to handle the proceeds from the Alabama sports betting market. The Fund would keep 15% of the sports betting tax revenue for operational purposes, up to a monthly cap of $250,000. All the rest of the money from the industry would then be reimbursed to higher education scholarships in Alabama. In addition to sportsbook operators, licenses for sports wagering services suppliers, equipment suppliers, and management would also be issued.
Regulate or Suffer!
This is Alabama’s latest attempt at legalizing the sports betting industry that is witnessing huge sports betting handle records each month in states with regulated industries. Recently Virginia and Michigan launched legalized sports betting, and more and more states are looking to consider legalizing it. Hawaii and Minnesota are the other two states seeking to bring sports betting and other forms of gambling to their jurisdictions.
Alabama must be aware that it lacks behind both from its neighboring states and further afield in regulating an industry that can swell the state’s pocket amid the economic crisis. The Study Group on Gambling, commissioned by the Alabama governor last year, released a report in December that suggested regulated gambling could bring the state up to $700 million annually. The 876-page report also said that expanded gambling would create as many as 20,000 new jobs. By not opting to change things, the lawmakers risk losing revenue and taxes that could be used for the betterment of the residents, particularly through the education programs.
What Can Happen Now?
The proposed bill is currently under consideration in the Alabama House of Representative’s Committee on Economic Development and Tourism. It is yet to see how reactions to the measure unfold.
If successful, SB 161 would pave the way for the creation of the Commission, which would be responsible for regulating the sports betting and market and the licensing process. Any measure to expand gambling in the Yellowhammer State that is approved by lawmakers and the governor would still require approval from state citizens. Constitutional ballot referendums in Alabama need a 60% majority support.
If Alabama legalizes sports betting, it would be largely due to individual endeavors of an individual: Rogers, a veteran lawmaker, who has long advocated for regulated gambling.