If current trends continue, Georgia could soon find itself an outlier among its neighbor states.
A legislative package that would introduce legal gambling in Alabama for the first time in the state’s history has promising prospects right now.
This comes in concert with a push to expand gambling in North Carolina and on the heels of the launch of legal online sportsbooks in Tennessee. However, Georgia could still offer more for its residents than Alabama does in the near term.
The lowdown on the latest Alabama gambling push
Casino operators in Mississippi and North Carolina should start to take this seriously. On Tuesday night, the Alabama Senate approved three bills and a constitutional amendment proposal. They could transform Alabama from a gambling wasteland into a competitor in a matter of months.
The proposal would amend the state’s constitution to allow for land-based casinos and a state lottery. The Senate-approved bills would regulate that activity, should the amendment receive the necessary approval.
Alabamans would be able to buy lottery tickets online as well as in person. The bills also specify six counties for possible casinos. Those are:
- DeKalb or Jackson
A hypothetical gaming commission would regulate all the gambling in the state. The package earmarks tax revenue for broadband implementation, mental health and rural hospitals. It also gives the state government the authority to negotiate a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
None of the legislation addresses sports betting, either on an online or retail basis. The same goes for online casino games and online poker. Those would likely require subsequent amendments down the road.
That’s where Georgia has an opportunity if it chooses to act on it. Voters in both states could be deciding similar issues in November 2022.
Potential gambling questions before AL, GA voters next year
The amendment proposal and three regulatory bills still need approval from the Alabama House of Representatives. The amount of support in that body is uncertain. A potential positive sign did recently surface, though, when a House committee advanced a medical marijuana bill.
Provided Gov. Kay Ivey then also signs off on the bills, Alabama voters would decide whether they want access to casinos and a lottery in the next mid-term election. A simple majority (50% of the vote plus one) would write the amendment into the state’s constitution.
On the same day, it’s possible that Georgians could decide the fate of GA sports betting and maybe casinos in their state. Legislation to propose an amendment for legal sports betting in Georgia will await lawmakers in Atlanta when they reconvene early next year.
If that proves successful, Alabamans might have a reason to visit Georgia even after casinos open and the lottery launches. If it fails, though, Georgians might have yet another border state besides their own with a more-open stance toward gambling.