House Majority Ldr Ledbetter touts ‘comprehensive’ aspect of Marsh gaming bill; Doesn’t ‘really have a problem’ with new casino in or near his district
Earlier this week, State Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) introduced so-called comprehensive gaming legislation, which, if enacted, would establish an education lottery in addition to casino gaming and sports betting at five designated areas throughout the state.
On Wednesday, the Alabama Senate Tourism Committee gave a favorable report to the legislation, SB 214, and now it awaits consideration by the entire Alabama Senate. Should it pass the three-fifths requirement in the Alabama Legislature’s upper chamber, it would have to meet the same requirements in the Alabama House.
House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) predicted it would get a hearing in the House of Representatives, where it has had difficulty in the past. Ledbetter noted the comprehensive aspect of the Marsh-led proposal, which he hinted could be an advantage as it makes its way through the legislature.
“I think it will,” he replied. “I met with Senator Marsh, and we’ve talked multiple times about different issues in the bill. I always said when I first got elected — the gaming issue, as you know, Jeff, has been going on for years. It’s something that needs to be settled one way or another. I think people deserve that. I’m not a big gaming person. I don’t play a lot. I don’t buy tickets. But I think people want a vote on it. And my vote would be let the people make a decision on what they want to do. But I’ve looked at the legislation. In fact, I’ve got it on my desk as we speak. I think there are some things that needed to happen have happened, and we’ve talked about that there really needed to be a comprehensive bill. It is. I think that’s one of the things that had to be. I think that’s one of the things that killed it in the past because we tried to go just a lottery or just under two entities, and it hasn’t worked. This is much more comprehensive. It has got more players.”
The Dekalb County lawmaker touted the scholarship, mental health and rural broadband aspects of the bill and declared voters should have an opportunity to vote up or down on a proposal.
“[I] think there are some things in there that would be positive for our state,” Ledbetter explained. “I know some people are not going to be for it, just like I said — I’m not really a gaming person. But at the end of the day, I think the people want a vote on it, and I think this is the most comprehensive bill that I’ve seen.”
A possible location for a new casino run by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would be built in a to-be-determined site in either Jackson or DeKalb County, an area that includes Ledbetter’s House District 24.
Ledbetter said he understood the reasoning and said he did not really have a problem with that proposed location.
“I have some thoughts on it,” he said. “Like I said, the lieutenant governor and I talked about it yesterday. I think it is something that you’ve got to really think about. Local leaders need to be engaged, and I know they tried to pick out geographically what the area is that is going to bring the most people. By population, of course, Dekalb County is a rural county. But if you put a circle around it, you’re not but about an hour and 45 [minutes], two hours from Atlanta, two hours from Nashville, an hour from Huntsville and Birmingham, Chattanooga. So certainly, if you drew a circle around that area, there is a tremendous amount of population. So, I’m sure that’s what they look at. But I think there’s a lot of things you got to look at. One thing the bill has got, if it goes to a county, they get a certain percentage, the city gets a certain percentage. They have to have it probably to take care of the operations and infrastructure that they need. So, I don’t really have a problem. I’ve been thinking more and more about it, trying to come up with a solution.”
He added that the legislation’s revenue allocation aspect was not “perfect,” but it offered a scenario where a lot of needs are met.
“All in all, I think it’s not a bad plan,” Ledbetter added. “Could it change? Absolutely. Will it change? I can’t say. I’m just one vote when it comes to that. We’ll see how it goes moving forward. I think it got out of committee yesterday, and I think there is a good possibility it will be to the Senate floor maybe when we come back.”
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.