Alabama Gaming Bills Set For Conference Committee

April 10, 2024
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Gaming legislation in Alabama is set to head to what could be a contentious conference committee after vastly different bills were approved by the state’s two legislative chambers.
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Gaming legislation in Alabama is set to head to what could be a contentious conference committee after vastly different bills were approved by the state’s two legislative chambers.

House Bills 151 and 152 were approved by the House in February as a comprehensive gaming package that would amend the state’s constitution to permit competitively bid commercial casinos, sports betting, and the creation of a state lottery.

However, the Senate greatly scaled down the bills upon passing them in March, keeping the state lottery but removing the commercial casinos and sports-betting language, and instead turning seven existing gaming facilities into pari-mutuel licensees that can offer historical horseracing devices.

In both cases, the bill required three-fifths approval from both chambers as well as future support from Alabama voters, either during November’s general election or a special election held earlier in the year.

Last week, the House rejected the Senate’s changes, and sent the bill to be considered in a conference committee. 

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter are both supportive of the more comprehensive plan, which has been presented as a way to cap the amount of gaming in the state and gives officials a broader enforcement mechanism to shut down unregulated gaming operations.

“If one thing has been made clear throughout this process, it’s that the people of Alabama want and deserve an opportunity to vote on this issue,” Ledbetter said in a statement. “I am hopeful that members of the House and Senate are successful in finding a compromise that positions them to do just that.”

House supporters have argued that the Senate bill also effectively awards licenses to existing facilities rather than allowing for new market entrants through a competitive bidding process that could also generate more revenue for the state.

“The House worked on this bill 14 months; I think the Senate worked on it three weeks,” Representative Andy Whitt, who chaired the House committee that crafted the bill, told local television station CBS 42. “Therein lies the problem; the Senate has had very little conversation with members of the House regarding this issue, so hopefully we can find some common ground.”

The Senate has been less enthused about the gaming package, narrowly passing the stripped-down package, and Senator Greg Albritton, who carried the bills in the Senate, has maintained throughout the process that the votes are not there in the Senate for the more expansive plan or for sports betting.

The Senate has yet to appoint conferees to the committee. The panel likely has several weeks to reach a compromise, as the legislature has ten remaining “legislative days” where the full chambers are in session. If the committee reaches a compromise, both chambers will have to once again approve it with a three-fifths majority.

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