Alabama ended the 2021 legislative session on Monday, May 17, 2021. But, they did not discuss gambling expansion in the state. The House was unable to agree on various issues on the legalization of casino gaming and sports betting.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey vocally supported the bill. Yet, she said that she did not intend to call a special session to talk about the bill unless lawmakers resolved their differences.
Earlier this month, the house members started negotiating the bill. But, these negotiations fell apart. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said that house members could not bring up the bill because it was a busy last legislative day.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Jim McClendon was disappointed. But, Jim noted that the Senate had compromised several things to see the bill pass.
The senator had worked on it, only to see it fall apart in the House. According to a statement told to WBMA ABC 33/40, McCutcheon noted the differences between house representatives on the bill could not be resolved in a day.
More About the Bill
Alabama senators voted 23-9, paving the way for the lower chamber to look at the bill. If the bill were to pass, Alabama would have nine casinos, with slot machines, table games, and sports betting.
Three of these casinos would belong to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a Native Tribe with casinos in Wetumpka, Montgomery, and Atmore. Besides, the tribe runs Class II gaming properties that offer bingo games.
The new legislature would have permitted the federally recognized tribe to upgrade their products from Class II to Class III. They would upgrade to offering Las Vegas-style gaming.
Meanwhile, five racetracks would also upgrade to full-fledged casinos. The casinos would be situated at Macon, Mobile, Houston, Greene, and Jefferson.
The sixth would go to Dekalb or Jackson. In the past, these racetracks have legally battled with the state over providing slot-like bingo machines.
The Fall of the Bill
The odds for Alabama voters to vote to legalize casinos changed on May 6, 2021. During that night, House Representatives engaged in a heated argument.
Republicans accused Democrats of changing the original Senate Bill 319. In addition, Republicans accused Democrats made some changes to the lottery and casino gambling bill.
Democrats accused Republicans of not involving them in the bipartisan legislation. They removed the casino part from the bill without the Democrat’s knowledge.
These changes were supposed to be good. It meant even disparate stakeholders could pass the bill.
Yet, in practice, these changes meant there would be a lot to disagree on. For example, the lawmakers would differ on the language used or how revenues raised from casinos and sports betting would be spent.
Senate Bill 319 estimated Alabama would get $710 million extra taxes. The amount would improve internet speed and promote economic growth, education, and health care. But, democrats wanted the money to fund Medicaid, which republicans found too expensive to deal with now.
Ideally, the gross gaming revenue collected from casinos would be subject to 20 percent tax. Alabama would also have a state-operated lottery. For now, Alabama remains one of the four states without a lottery.
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