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Ledbetter on fate of legal gambling: ‘At the end of the day, there just wasn’t enough time’

Alabama Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter appeared on Capitol Journal late last week to rehash the 2024 legislative session. Among several topics, the Speaker spoke in detail about the push for legal gambling made by House lawmakers that came up one vote short in the Alabama Senate.

“Well, there was a lot of conversation,” he said. “I don’t think it ever came to fruition. It was just talk that we’d got with the Senate and some conversation that was going on. At the end of the day there just wasn’t enough time.”

Ledbetter said he firmly believes voters should have a say on gambling. Although he is now unsure about the likelihood of passing legislation after an investigation was conducted by a state appointed study group.

The group found hundreds of illegal gambling operations across the state.

“We have so much,” he said. “I didn’t realize until the committee we put together kind of went around the state and found out the types of illegal gaming we had and how much of it there was. I think everybody was shocked to know that.”

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He acknowledged that the revenue is going to neighboring states that have a lottery.

“The money is going out of state. We got almost half of our counties that borders another state that has got it as far as the lottery is concerned. So I think the voters really want a chance to vote. That was one of the things I wanted to try to do and I’m the last person to know anything about gambling.”

“It’s all across the state. Every county has some.”

The main issue, according to Ledbetter, is that the operations are not regulated.

“You know that all kinds of things happen in those facilities that shouldn’t. So we put the commission together to regulate it and stop it.”

He said that Alabamians have often expressed their desire for tougher laws on the books to fight illegal gaming.

“I hear people say we need to enforce with tougher laws, which these laws were a lot tougher, but the problem is you got to have people enforce it,” said Ledbetter.

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In addition to the lack of manpower, law enforcement in several counties is reportedly involved in the gambling operations.

“Some of these counties actually the sheriff they are the ones that does the the licenses for them,” Ledbetter said. “Then we got one county where the sheriff’s brother had some. So it’s hard and it’s hard for county sheriffs to do it because they don’t have the facilities to put the machines in and they don’t have the manpower.”

In the near future, Ledbetter said that their is the possibility of increased legal resources for the Attorney General’s office and other prosecutors to fight illegal gambling but without enforcement “nothing will change.”

He also predicted a rise in illegal gambling after the failed attempt to pass the 2024 legislation.

“Probably after this, we’re gonna see an expansion of more illegal gambling. The problem we had you get a lot of people that’s making money off of it illegally, and some of it I think, is organized crime. You can tell just by how the facility is set up. They showed me those pictures. So I think this has given them a runway to be honest with you.”

“I don’t know if we upped it who’s gonna enforce it. You say well the local people will. Well a lot of them may have people that are involved or engaged they think it’s legal.”

“I know the Attorney General said everything’s illegal. I guess it depends on who you talk to. There’s different opinions on that.”

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.

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