The first two weeks of the legislative session saw Alabama lawmakers pass three bills associated with the coronavirus pandemic with bipartisan support but their work would probably see more controversy in the upcoming weeks.
After having a week off to take into consideration and assess the effectiveness of their efforts during the Covid-19 crisis, local lawmakers are set to return on February 23rd and proceed with the consideration of the proposed major gambling expansion that could bring at least $500 million on an annual basis for state’s programs. As CasinoGamesPro previously reported, the projected fresh gambling revenue would be used to fund college scholarship programs, health care and mental health care programs, and various other needs of local communities.
The proposed gambling bill that seeks to authorize lottery and sports betting, and establish five casino venues across the state is a constitutional amendment and will be subject to Alabama resident’s vote for a final decision in case it is given the green light by the local Legislature.
Apart from the gambling expansion bill, Alabama lawmakers are set to consider a number of other bills on controversial topics, including election law changes, measures regarding violent and overcrowded prisons, medical marijuana and gun control laws, etc. The current legislative session can last up to 15 weeks, which is about the middle of May.
Bill Seeks to Legalize Lotteries, Sports Betting and Casino Gambling
Senator Del Marsh is the sponsor of the constitution amendment seeking to legalize the full range of casino games, sports betting and lottery services in the state and establish five casino venues. According to preliminary expectations unveiled by the Legislative Services Agency, the net revenue of casino and lottery services for the state of Alabama would amount to $670 million and $450 million, respectively.
The proposed measure became subject to discussions on February 11th, with Del Marsh saying that he expected certain changes to be made to the piece of legislation in response to legislators’ opinions when the legislative session resumes next week.
State voters have not had the opportunity to vote on a lottery authorization measure since 1999.
According to estimates provided by the Legislative Services Agency, the addition of a lottery to the state of Alabama would bring net revenue of between $194 million and $279 million a year, with the money set to be redirected to community colleges’ scholarship programs. Senator Del Marsh has revealed that he is willing to pass this piece of legislation before the constitutional amendment is sent on the ballot.
Under the provisions of Senator Del Marsh’s bill, almost 50% of the revenue generated by casinos is set to be spent on broadband expansion until that total reached $1 billion. Apart from that, the gambling expansion bill aims to also direct money to health care services in rural areas and mental health care services.
In case the proposed piece of legislation is approved, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would enter a compact agreement with Alabama’s Governor that would allow the tribe to offer a full range of casino games at its casinos in Montgomery, Wetumpka, and Atmore.
Making sports betting legal at casino venues and online is also sought by the proposed bill, with Senator Marsh saying he is willing to see the proposed piece of legislation as close to the final version as possible.