Yet another state that shares a border with Georgia is making moves toward passing expanded gaming legislation.
This time, it is Alabama.
Lawmakers there are taking steps toward not just expanding into casino gaming but also adding sports betting to its offerings. The effort to expand gambling in The Yellowhammer State has bi-partisan support. Both Republicans and Democrats and working toward legalization.
Could the fact that another border state is adding gaming options push Georgia to finally expand its gaming offerings?
What type of gambling does Alabama currently have?
Georgia online gambling consists of buying Georgia Lottery tickets and daily fantasy sports. The state prohibits casinos, both commercial and online, as well as sports betting and poker for real money. The Peach State continues to hold out on adding gaming options as every border state is either expanding gambling offerings or are moving toward it.
Like Georgia, Alabama currently allows virtually no wagering of any kind. There is no Alabama sports betting industry and no state-regulated casinos. The lone source of wagering in the state are three tribal casinos. The Heart of Dixie does not even have a state lottery system, making it one of just five states without one.
Could Alabama really move past such a long history of standing against expanded gambling and legalize both casino wagering and sports betting?
Democrats think so.
AL Democrats explore gaming options at conference
During Alabama Democrat’s Pro-Growth Policy Conference, lawmakers began to investigate options to legalize gambling. According to House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, Democrats will bring in sports betting experts from across the country. The goal is to better understand the sports betting industry and how it could impact not just Alabama but other states nearby, such as Georgia.
Democratic legislators also heard from many panelists on the process of policymaking as it relates to gaming.
According to Daniels, all of these steps are to better inform lawmakers of what legalizing sports betting, casino gambling and/or a state lottery would mean for the state.
“We’re going to talk about proceed revenue sharing with folks from Tennessee, folks from Georgia, vendors that deal with the lottery, so our members will be able to get a full picture.”
That revenue share could mean a great deal to those living in Alabama. With no lottery or other forms of gambling, the state is missing out on tens or even hundreds of millions of tax revenue that other states are enjoying. That money could be used to help Alabama’s education system, as well as provide assistance for rural communities that need an influx of cash. The same goes for small businesses that are still trying to pull out of the lows that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Daniels, expanding gaming options is necessary to help the state continue to grow.
“Pro-growth means pro-Alabama, looking at ways to improve where we are.”
Even if Democrats continue to take steps toward passing a gambling bill, it will take more than one political party to get the job done. Republicans sit in 77 of the 105 seats in the Alabama House of Representatives and 27 of 34 Senate seats. Without Republicans joining the effort to expand gaming, any legislative measure is as good as dead.
Some Republicans share the same desire to pass gambling legislation
For Republicans in Alabama, the money generated for the state from wagering is an important part of the calculus, but not the only part. Another priority is cracking down on the black market and illegal wagering options in The Heart of Dixie.
Republican state Rep. Andy Whitt said he has been able to purchase fake scratch ticket lottery games all across the state. According to the Alabama Daily News, Whitt also visited 12 illegal gambling sites which all had electronic bingo machines.
“I’ve concluded that it’s simply the Wild West in Alabama when it comes to gaming.”
Because of that reality, an informal group of House Representatives has begun looking closer at if they could pass an expanded gaming bill. That informal group now has a goal of proposing legislation in the 2024 session.
Their investigation did not stop at just identifying if passing such a bill is possible. The group is also looking at how to regulate and tax gambling options in Alabama. Another member of the informal group is Republican state Rep. Chris Blackshear, who feels that if Alabama does not act now, it might not get control of the situation.
“It’s unregulated, the state is getting no revenue from it and if we don’t get a handle on it now, we never will.”
This informal group has already met with representatives of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians about what legislation could look like and how the tribe could be included. Clearly, an appetite for gambling is growing on both sides of the political spectrum.
Would Alabama expanding gaming options spur Georgia to act?
Right now, every state surrounding Georgia is either moving toward expanding gambling or already has passed gambling legislation.
North Carolina recently launched mobile sports betting. Tennessee still has no legal casino gambling, but mobile sports betting is available.
South Carolina has casino gambling on excursion riverboats but has yet to pass sports betting legislation despite several attempts to do so. There is still a desire to pass a sports betting bill sooner rather than later.
Florida has a massive tribal casino market that is one of the leaders in the country. It could soon add sports betting to its offerings once the courts approve it.
If Alabama also begins making strides toward expanded gambling, that will mean all five states surrounding Georgia have moved closer to expanding gambling options or already have them operational. Could that out-of-state pressure lead The Peach State to finally pass sports betting legislation?
Likely, the answer to that question is yes. No state likes losing tax dollars to its neighbors. This is likely why there is a renewed push to pass a sports betting bill in Georgia in 2024.