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Alabama Senate prepared to deal with hand dealt by House on gaming in 2024 

Yellowhammer News hosted its annual panel discussion Wednesday with the President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate and Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.

Now in year two of the quadrennium, it was the second installment of the event featuring Pro Tem Greg Reed and Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter together as leaders of their respective chambers.

As the multi-bill package of gaming legislation awaits its much-anticipated committee action in the Alabama Senate, Ledbetter said he’s proud of House lawmakers “whether for it, or against it” in how they’ve dealt with the issue as it moved forward and that the package is the first comprehensive package that has ever originated in the House of Representatives. 

Pro Tem Reed said the “majority” of his chamber wants to do something with it – with “tweaks or changes” from members.

“My first year as Speaker, probably every week, somebody would come and talk to me about a local CA [constitutional amendment] for gaming, talk about a comprehensive plan, or talk about the lottery,” Speaker Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said.

Around that time, Ledbetter assigned an ad hoc committee of House lawmakers to measure the spread of illegal operations and study the latest opportunity for a legal gaming environment.

RELATED: Alabama House advances legal gaming, education lottery, statewide vote

“After a year’s time, going to different locations,” he said, “there’s probably 1,000 locations they listed.”

Ledbetter said Alabama is a state where fraudulent scratch-off tickets can be purchased at gas stations, 1.5 million people placed bets on last year’s Super Bowl, and organized crime groups are extending their presence through illegal operations. 

“We’ve got the most convoluted mess in this state when it comes to gaming than anything I’ve seen since I’ve served – and all we’re trying to do is fix it,” the Speaker said. “I mean, we’re going from hundreds of facilities, down to what the state could regulate to six. You know, I hear the thing where, ‘there’s going to be ten new facilities.’ Well, that’s not true.”

Ultimately, Ledbetter said while he helped reset the gaming issue into motion in the 2024 session, the lower chamber has executed its responsibilities for now. 

RELATED: ‘Fact vs. Fiction’ Q&A with Rep. Chris Blackshear on 2024 Alabama House gaming legislation

“I had some people in my office this afternoon that helped draft the bill, they asked me, ‘what do we need to do?’” he said. “I said, ‘we don’t need to do anything – it’s in the Senate, let them take care of it. And once that’s done, we’ll still watch it’.”

Pro Tem Reed said his members were still at the Alabama State House on Wednesday night working on just that.

“As you can hear, the Speaker has done an excellent job in his chamber, looking to try and move forward,” Reed (R-Jasper) said. “I can tell you from the feedback I’ve gotten in my chamber, is that the majority of our chamber wants to pass legislation to the able to regulate and manage and change the penalties, and get rid of the illegal operations, and certify and collect on what’s going on in other locations, be able to have caps and controls on what’s happening related to gaming in the state of Alabama. 

RELATED: Ivey backs vote on legal gaming, state lottery: ‘Now is the time for Alabama voters to have another say’

“Now, the devil’s in the details always,” he said. “And to the Speaker’s point, he and I had some great conversation. I think it was wise looking at this issue. They took a strong lead, and rightfully so, and had done a ton of work. Whatever we’re gonna move forward is gonna be their legislation. It’s got tweaks or changes that Senators feel like, for us to pass a bill, we have to do that. It’s going to be their legislation moving to us. 

“I think that the question is not, ‘do we need to do something about it?’ I think the answer is ‘absolutely.’ The question is exactly the parts and pieces of all these different elements, whether it’s penalties, or whether it’s casinos, or the lottery and the governance of the lottery, and the enforcement of a lottery condition, and how they do their jobs and all those kinds of things you get into the details – it’s a very complicated topic. 

“If it wasn’t, I’ve been here 13 years, we’ve been working on at least that long,” Reed said.

“So we would probably done it a little quicker. But I think the Senate is interested in the process. The feedback I’ve got from our members is that they’re interested in trying to move something forward. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a group of men and women that are working on that topic tonight — they’re still at the State House working on that issue.”

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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