MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama lawmakers are rolling the dice on gambling bills, once again. The Senate Tourism Committee Wednesday gave a favorable report to a constitutional amendment authorizing gambling.
After decades of failed attempts to authorize gambling and a state lottery, Sen. Greg Albritton (R – Atmore) says he hopes this time around is different.
“I guess I’m just an optimistic guy, aren’t I,” Albritton said.
But if today’s hearing was any indicator of how lawmakers might vote on the bill, it has an uphill battle.
“This bill basically singles out Lowndes County and doesn’t give them the equitable, fair treatment as any other facility listed in the bill,” Rep. Kelvin Lawrence (D – Hayneville) said.
Rep. Lawrence says the bill’s limit on the number of electronic bingo machines would be detrimental to Lowndes County.
“This bill has a lot of work to do in terms of making sure that everyone is treated fairly and equitably,” Lawrence said.
The bill would create an official state lottery, allow for casino-style games, sports betting, bingo and raffles. It’s projected to bring in some $800 million dollars annually.
“We need to grab control of this as soon as we can,” Albritton said.
Albritton stresses this bill doesn’t expand gaming outside of creating a lottery, but getting three-fifths of House lawmakers on board might not be in the cards.
“They don’t want to do it. I don’t know. I’m frustrated with their inability to see the necessity of the state exercising its control. You can’t build a chickenhouse or an outhouse with a permit or some type of control, and yet you can build a casino without any problem,” Albritton said.
If the bill were to pass, the issue would be up to voters on the ballot.
The last time Alabamians voted on gambling was 1999, when they rejected a lottery proposal.