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Alabama Senate committee passes gambling bill without casinos or sports betting

Alabama moved one step closer to getting a state lottery on Tuesday when the Alabama Senate Tourism Committee passed a bill creating the Alabama Gaming Commission.

Creates a lottery, shuts down illegal gambling statewide, eliminates electronic bingo even in the six facilities that remain open, removes sports betting in any form from the House version, and forces the governor to make an agreement with give authority to connect. Creek Band of Creek Indians (PCI).

The bill is significantly different from the one the House approved at the start of the session. The constitutional amendment would authorize up to 10 Class III gambling casinos throughout Alabama.

The only remaining electronic bingo in Alabama is at three PCI-operated facilities in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery.

Sponsors hope the bill will shut down most illegal gambling establishments. Six non-PCI-operated facilities legally permitted to operate by the state play paper card bingo, offer live dog racing, and offer wagering on horse racing and dog racing simulcasts. You can do it. Some establishments also offer machines where players can place bets.

Most of the revenue comes from the Alabama Lottery. Sponsors estimate this will generate $350 million in revenue. The original House version of the bill had an estimated revenue of up to $1.2 billion, with most of that revenue coming from casinos.

RELATED: Alabama Senate gears up to take action from House over games in 2024

During the first three and a half years, all revenue generated goes to the state's general fund. From 2029, one-third of the funds will go to the Education Trust Fund. Two generations of Georgians attended college using Hope Scholarships created by the Georgia Lottery. The House bill would have earmarked a small amount of the proceeds for scholarships to two-year colleges and trade schools to improve the state's workforce development efforts. The portion of the bill passed by the Senate Tourism Committee does not earmark any type of scholarships.

The House version of the bill was scheduled for a vote to ratify the constitutional amendment during the Nov. 5 general election vote. Many Republicans have expressed concern that gambling voting on Election Day would artificially increase the number of Democratic voters. The Senate bill removes this provision and moves the election to a special referendum on September 10th.

Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) is introducing the bill in the Senate.

“We have worked diligently to build consensus,” Albritton explained. “Since then, we've considered two or three different versions. We've met today and had other gatherings, but they're essentially what I would call adult. We think there is a consensus.”

Albritton said the new constitutional amendment bill would override existing local constitutional amendment bills and prevent new constitutional amendments from taking effect.

RELATED: Alabama House pushes for legal gaming, educational lottery, statewide voting

The bill would “tax this and collect the unpaid taxes,” Albritton said of the remaining legal gambling. “The taxable range is 24-34%.”

Mr Albritton confirmed that some facilities currently in operation have implemented electronic bingo.

“We are eliminating electronic bingo at these locations,” Albritton said.

“So all the proceeds will go to the general fund for three years?” asked Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro).

“It will take three-and-a-half years, and then one-third will be in education,” Albritton replied.

“We still don't have a good explanation as to why we don't address sports betting and sports betting,” Singleton said. “Why aren’t we recovering that money when we know it’s happening on a regular basis?”

“We are aware that sports betting is happening throughout the state,” Albritton responded. “We don’t have the votes to address those things here.”

“We're leaving a lot of money sitting unaddressed in sports betting,” Singleton said.

Sen. Roger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said if the state passes the lottery, the PCI would go to the federal government to allow tribes to upgrade their casinos to Class III gaming without having to do business with Alabama. He said he was concerned that he would be required to do so. .

“You don't get a dime in Class III. If people who are regulated by the federal government go and ask for it, they're going to get Class III,” Smitherman said.

“Under this package, no one will be allowed to do Class III gaming, whether it's PCI or anyone else,” Albritton said.

“We want to make sure we don’t lose the trigger for the Class III game,” Smitherman said.

The Senate Tourism Committee reported favorably on both the constitutional amendment and the bill it authorizes.

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