Alabama Legislature activities

State Sen. Albritton makes another push for gambling in Alabama

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Sen. Albritton

Sen. Albritton

Gambling bills moved quickly through an Alabama Senate committee last week and were expected to see floor debate this week.

The vote by the Tourism Committee was 9 to 1 in favor of the bills. Only a handful of people spoke against the bills that seem to have a lot of legislative support.

The legislation is being sponsored by State Sen.

Greg Albritton, R-Atmore. Albritton represented Clarke County until late last year when the county was removed from his District 22. Not surprisingly, Albritton lives in Atmore, home to the Poarch Band of Creek Indin ans who could benefit by operating a new casino proposed by the legislation.

Albritton has reasoned that gambling is in Alabama now in various forms but the state does not receive any revenues or benefits from it. The Poarch Band has casinos on their lands because they are federally recognized. Alabama has no control over their operations in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka.

Albritton’s bills would create an Alabama Education Lottery, create a gambling commission that would award a single license for casinos at Greenetrack in Greene County, at the Birmingham Races Course, at Victoryland in Macon County and at the Mobile County Greyhound Racing Facility. Additionally, a casino would be permitted for northeast Alabama, in either DeKalb or Jackson counties to be operated by the Poarch Band.

Satellite casinos with a limited number of electronic games would be allowed in Houston and Lowndes counties.

Sports betting would also be regulated by the legislation that would impose a 20 percent tax on the net gambling revenues of it and casino gambling.

The bills would allow the governor to compact with the Poarch Band to operate the casinos. That would allow more traditional games — blackjack, roulette and craps — at their casinos in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka where only electronic bingo is permitted now. But the state would also realize revenues from those operations that they aren’t getting now.

Albritton says gambling already exists in Alabama; it just isn’t regulated and taxed to the state’s benefit. His bills would do that.

Albritton said the legislation won’t expand gambling but Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, disagrees. The group advocates on behalf of churches and has opposed gambling and alcohol-related bills.

Godfrey notes that a compact between the governor and Poarch Band would allow the Indians to add more gambling to their operations. In addition, an entirely new casino would be created in northeast Alabama.

Legalized gambling could generate up to $800 million annually, not counting what additional gaming at the Poarch facilities would generate. A minimum of 12,000 permanent jobs could be created.

The bills are expected to easily pass the Senate but will encounter greater opposition in the House where the leadership there may be opposed and block the bills.

But the general consensus is that there are enough votes to pass the bills if the full House gets to vote on them.

If the bills become law, Alabama voters would have to ratify them. Alabama last voted on gambling — a lottery proposal — when Don Siegelman was governor in 1999. Since then many states have enacted lotteries, a total of 45 nationwide including all of Alabama’s neighbors.

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