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State Rep. Blackshear: ‘Naïve’ to think sports betting isn’t already taking place in Alabama

A study group of Alabama legislators recently announced plans for a comprehensive gaming bill in the Yellowhammer State. The legislation would create a state lottery while also legalizing casinos and sports betting in Alabama.

One of the main arguments is that illegal gambling is already occurring across the state, creating the need to not only legalize certain facilities, but also enforce strict penalties against the illegal gambling operations.

Friday on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” State Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) argued for the need of the new law.

“We’re very naïve and we’re fooling ourselves if we don’t think that’s happening today,” Blackshear said about sports betting. “There’s folks out there that gamble every single day on an app on their phone, whether it’s through a bookie in the state, or whether it’s through having an off-shore account. It’s happening every single day.

“In fact last year there was 1.93 million attempts to make an illegal sports bet in the state of Alabama last year, on their phones. So it’s happening.”

Blackshear said the bill might result in less gambling overall in the state because it will shut down the illegal facilities.

“So, if I’m going to seven licensed casinos,” he said, “and again the Poarch Creek counts, if you only had 10, from a casino perspective going from several hundred to a total of 10, and then we’re going to have an enforcement division that enforces those, regulates them, and then we also increase all the penalties, we put some teeth into the law. That to me is drastically reducing, that’s not expanding.”

Blackshear admitted this proposal probably won’t please everyone, but said it’s the best compromise they can get through this session.

“We knew it wasn’t an easy task,” he said, “and we knew at the end of it, whatever piece of legislation looked like when we introduced it, there was not going to be a perfect piece of legislation because it’s just not a perfect topic a lot of people don’t want to talk about. But we think we have the best possible piece of legislation to deal with the problems that we have in the state of Alabama.”

If the bill passes, a constitutional amendment will have to be approved by the voters to become law.

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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