State Rep. Warren: Milton McGregor’s dream ‘will come true’ with full-blown VictoryLand casino gaming; Says 20% gambling tax ‘a little overboard’
One of the possible beneficiaries of State Sen. Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) comprehensive gaming legislation unveiled earlier this week is Macon County’s VictoryLand facility, which at times has been the subject of controversy in Alabama’s decades-long gambling conundrum.
The legislation, SB 214, if passed, would allow for the expansion of gaming at VictoryLand. That is a welcome announcement for State Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee), who represents Macon County and has long been a staunch advocate for VictoryLand.
During an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Warren indicated her support for aspects of Marsh’s bill, which she said would fulfill the vision of the late Milton McGregor, who had long supported expanded gaming in Alabama.
“I think as long as we can do what we need to do, to support our charities — that’s where these started, and that’s our whole purpose, dealing with the charities — but I think that what this bill does if it gives only the opportunities to play paper bingo, but I think if we look at where we are with VictoryLand and the facilities can actually do, it is going to make it better because it is going to give us open-style casinos,” Warren said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to get to all the time. So, I think that once given the opportunity to really go full-force and the open-style casinos, Macon County will really be doing good.”
“That will be it — that will be the dream that Milton McGregor had that will come true, that’s what he fought for, for so long, trying to get the full-blown casino-style gaming and even trying to deal with the Native Americans and trying to come up with something there. I think that will be good.”
One criticism of the bill Warren had was the 20% tax fee, which she said would initially be too high as the VictoryLand facilities would have to undergo upgrades to expand gambling.
“The only reservation that I have right now with the bill is they have the license fee, and they have the tax fees,” Warren added. “I don’t really agree with the 20% [tax], especially for Macon County … I think we can live with 15%. Twenty percent is going a little overboard. The reason I say that is because for VictoryLand to open up and be at the level that it should be, there is going to have to be a lot of investment on VictoryLand’s part. I say if we can leave it at 15 [percent], that will give them the freedom to go in and get the revenue that they need to bring their facility up to par because, as you know, the main competition for VictoryLand are the Native Americans. Those are our competitors in this area. They’ve only had to close for COVID. We’ve had to close several times. We’ve got legal fees. We’ve incurred a lot, and in order to really be competitive again, we’ve got to make a major investment into VictoryLand. And I think if we can lower that tax rate to 15%, that would give them the flexibility. Also, we need to look at the length of the license because when you go to a financial entity to borrow money, they’re not looking at short-term. They’re looking at long-term. And because of some of the short-term things there, we’re going to have to make some adjustments there.”
Warren speculated with the expansion of the gaming scope at VictoryLand, there would not only be additional revenue for the state government generated solely out of gambling but an increase in income, sales alcohol and tobacco taxes as well, which she said could exceed the revenue generated off of the 20% tax rate.
The Macon County lawmaker also said the final tax rate could be negotiated, adding that was why Marsh had proposed it at this early point in the legislative session.
@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.