Alabama Senate Passes New Sports Betting Legislation

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On Tuesday, the Alabama Senate approved a sports betting bill that would allow the state to legalize retail and online betting, besides creating a lottery, by a 23-9 vote. The proposal now goes to the House, where the fate of Alabama sports betting will be decided by one of the country’s most politically conservative chambers, with Alabama being one of the few remaining states without a lottery or commercial casino. The constitutional amendment bill must pass with two-thirds majority support.

The bill would be more complex than any other sports betting measure seeking legalization in any other state. It requires a constitutional amendment to expand gaming options in the Yellowhammer State via a 2022 ballot referendum.

Sports Betting Bill Details

The bill, which puts the Alabama Gaming Commission as the regulator, proposes nine casinos, including six commercial and three tribal casinos. New casinos would be able to allow sports betting, inclusive of in-state college betting, but it is not clear whether the bill extends to include mobile betting. Some reports suggest the bill allows for three independent online skins for each casino, meaning there could be as many as 27 mobile sportsbooks in Alabama.

 Licenses for casinos and sportsbooks would be awarded through a bidding process. However, the existing facility operator in some specific entities could earn the license on a preferential basis. Licensing fees would vary from $5 million to $35 million for the venues in more populated areas for a period of ten years. Both casino gaming revenue and sports betting revenues would be levied at 20%.

The bill will also include historic horse racing terminals and a state lottery. The Yellowhammer State is among a handful of states without a state-run lottery besides Nevada, Utah, Hawaii, and Alaska.

What’s Next?

The latest push for Alabama gambling expansion comes more than a month after a lottery-only bill failed and more than two decades after Alabamans rejected a similar lottery expansion effort. However, industry analysts believe this year would be eventful for the state’s gambling efforts. With the latest bill having received the Alabama Senators’ approval, the sports betting bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. If the House also approves the measure, the proposal will be put to the popular vote through a referendum for final consideration.

State Sen. Jim McClendon is hopeful about the potential of getting the constitutional amendment, which he says is the resident’s right to decide: “Every time I go back to my district… people want to have the right to vote on a state lottery and gaming.” A 2020 poll backs up his claims, revealing that more than two-thirds of Alabamans support legal gambling expansion, with more than seven in 10 favoring a lottery. Besides, according to a study conducted by the governor’s office, adding a lottery, casinos, and sports betting to the State of Alabama could draw up to $710 million a year.

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