Alabama Senate committee unanimously advances comprehensive gaming, lottery bill
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate Tourism Committee on Wednesday gave a favorable report to SB 214, the bill by Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) proposing a constitutional amendment that would legalize casino gaming and sports betting in the state of Alabama, in addition to creating a state-run lottery.
SB 214 now heads to the full Senate for consideration. If ultimately passed through both chambers of the legislature, the people of Alabama would need to approve the measure in a referendum.
Marsh told reporters that he expects the bill to be debated on the Senate floor on Thursday, however, he will not move to pass SB 214 at that time. Marsh intends to utilize the legislature’s break next week to continue fine-tuning the legislation and addressing concerns raised during the committee and floor process.
View a summary of SB 214 here. The bill was introduced on Tuesday but has been in the works since last year, with Marsh working diligently with stakeholders and other legislators on the complicated issue.
The proposal would generate an estimated $475 million — 698 million annually, not inclusive of the licensing fees associated with the fifth casino site to be located in either DeKalb County or Jackson County. The license fees for that location would be determined by the newly formed Alabama Gaming Commission under the current form of the legislation. That uncertainty — and incongruity with the other four casino sites — was raised as a concern on Wednesday by Robbie McGhee, vice chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians tribal council.
Lottery revenue would go towards postsecondary education scholarships, while other gaming revenue would fund a litany of general priorities, including broadband expansion, rural health care and mental health care services.
The committee vote was 11-0, although Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) raised concerns with granting exclusive rights to the five sites named in the legislation.
“I think there will definitely be changes made [before the bill gets to a Senate floor vote],” Marsh advised, speaking generally to concerns raised during the committee meeting. He expressed optimism that a consensus can be reached in the legislature so the gaming and lottery issues will get to a vote of the people.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn