Alabama house approves lottery, electronic games of chance, not wagering

By Jill R. Dorson

An Alabama conference committee brought its revised package of gambling bills to the house late on Tuesday (30 April), and the chamber passed it. The package will now head to the senate and, if it passes there, voters will be able to decide if the state should have a lottery and electronic games of chance.

Sports betting is not part of the package. The house passed HB 151, 72-29, a constitutional amendment, and HB 152, 70-29, which is the framework.

The expectation is that the lottery would be live some time in 2026.

Alabama is currently one of five US states that does not have a lottery. State voters defeated a 1999 measure to add a lottery. Three of Alabama’s four border states offer some form of legal sports betting. Only Georgia does not have legal wagering. Tennessee and Florida offer statewide mobile sports betting.

Mississippi offers in-person wagering. A bill to expand Mississippi sports betting to statewide mobile died in conference committee on Monday (29 April).

Alabama house approves lottery, stripped down packages

Representative Chris Blackshear said the committee brought the “best piece of legislation we have to move to allow the people to be able to vote”. The conference stripped down what began in February as a massive expansion of gambling.

The goal of the bills is for the state to offer its own lottery, but also to become part of multi-state lotteries. In theory, if voters approve, they would be able to buy PowerBall or Mega Millions tickets as well.

Blackshear said the bills would set up a 20 August special election to approve lottery. The legislation would allow in-person lottery, electronic games of chance at seven locations, paper bingo and traditional raffles. The lottery would be regulated by the Alabama Education Lottery, with proceeds going toward multiple educational initiatives. Revenue from slot machines and other forms of gaming would be directed to the general fund.

Electronic games of chance would be allowed at named racetracks in Greene, Jefferson, Macon and Mobile counties and bingo halls in Greene, Houston and Lowndes counties. The bill requires the governor to negotiate with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians around land held in trust and for Class III gaming. The tribe already operates three Class II retail casinos in Indian Country.

Lawmakers debated the bill for more than an hour, most of whom were supportive and complimentary of the conference committee. Another key theme was the idea that having a state lottery would keep Alabama dollars in the state. Several lawmakers pointed to residents driving to Florida or Tennessee to buy tickets.

From the house the bill will go to the senate, possibly later this week. Alabama’s legislative session is set to close on 14 May.

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