An interesting nugget is buried in the gambling bill that almost guarantees Alabama’s gambling operations remain in control
For anyone following the gambling conversation in the state of Alabama, you will find that we are closer to getting some form of a comprehensive gaming bill in this state than we have ever been.
It all started with the lottery, but that bill was swapped out for another bill that includes casino gaming and sports betting. It is a bill that is vaguely supported by Governor Kay Ivey and others under the guise of giving people the ability to vote on a lottery.
The more convoluted aspect of this bill is the bidding process for casinos that would be authorized under the proposal. There are multiple operators who want to have gambling in this state that are currently operating facilities in the areas in which the bill would authorize casinos.
Many lawmakers and citizens were worried that this was the government picking winners and losers; some tweaks opened the bidding process up to other gambling interests and objections subsided.
But should they have?
According to State Senator Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville), the new bidding process allows more bidders but still gives the entrenched interests the last bid; it also requires the casino sites are located at the quasi-legal facilities that currently run some gambling, whether the current operators of those facilities win the bid or not.
So, while that change seems to offer up a competition for gambling, it’s a facade.
Givhan noted in an interview with Huntsville WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” “You can’t go across the street. You can’t go down the road.”
He thinks this limits who will bid on a gambling license. He said that the racetrack in Shorter is where the license will allow gambling in Macon County, for example.
“Let’s say they wanted to go out to a competitor one in Tuskegee, maybe get a little closer to Auburn, get a little closer to Atlanta, whatever, get a different setting, they can’t do that. They are limited to that racetrack site in Shorter,” he advised.
This all means that if you have a currently gambling operation, you have two advantages.
Not only do you get the last bid, with an option to snipe a license away from another bidder who may be interested in building a bigger and better facility, you also can signal that you refuse to sell your current operation before the bidding even starts, which would render the license worthless to anyone else.
This is not a free market. This is a government-mandated series of gambling and casino monopolies.
Not only can you not put casinos in the state where the markets might best be served, you have to use the current facilities already constructed if you want to bid for the licenses.
This is almost worse than the previous incarnations that just rewarded the previous gambling interests because it pretends to offer up the competition while ensuring that competition doesn’t happen.
That Alabama State House should look at this and actually create a fair bidding process. Even if it has to be separated regionally, it doesn’t have to be so slanted in favor of the current operators — some who have skirted the line of legality for years.