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Gambling bill still on track after weekend “blip”

The gambling bill is still in progress.

That's what multiple stakeholders and state lawmakers who have been working on the bill said Sunday. A “minor incident,” as one lawmaker put it, caused ripples late Friday and plenty of rumors at the state Republican convention Saturday, but the issue appears to have been largely resolved, even if not on the same page. Everyone also agrees. At least in the same chapter.

“Some things happened that shouldn't have happened and that caused problems,” he said. arthur mothershed, executive vice president of business development and government relations with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. “I believe we have resolved most of that and we are all still working together. There are some issues with this bill as it is currently written, but we will address those issues and ensure that everyone We are working with members of Congress to pass legislation that everyone agrees with.”

Mothershed did not go into detail about the tribe's issues with the current omnibus gaming bill, which is scheduled to be heard in a House committee this week. But a person familiar with the ongoing negotiations surrounding the bill said both the PCI and local racetrack owners had at least a plan in the bill to make last and best bids on various casino licenses. He said he is seeking a clause that would allow this.

The current bill would establish 10 statewide lottery, sports betting, and casino locations within the state, with non-PCI locations defined as counties or locations where dog tracks or other operating bingo halls are currently located. Limited to local governments. But the bill provides no protections for Alabama residents who own these facilities, including Mobile and the two locations in northeast Alabama that PCI would operate.

“They simply want to amend the bill to give protections to current business owners who have been running and contributing to the state's economy for decades,” said a lawmaker participating in the negotiations. “It's not unreasonable. We do this all the time for other types of businesses, and it benefits local residents. We want the state to get the last and best bid. You have nothing to lose by allowing it.”

But rumors circulated late Friday and into Saturday about a different amendment. An amendment from the PCI that would have given the tribe a casino location in Birmingham instead of in northeast Alabama was leaked by a lawmaker, and rumors soon arose that the bill was in trouble.

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The wording of the proposed amendments made it clear that they were not final drafts ready to be inserted into the bill. Those close to the negotiations described them as “negotiation drafts” – amendments that outline PCI's wishes on one issue – but are just one step in the negotiation process.

The problem arose not only because of the document's leak, but also because it included Dr. Lewis Benefield's name. Mr Benefield is CEO of both Victoryland and Birmingham Racecourse, and the amendment included a statement that he agreed to the proposal to allow PCI to operate a casino in Birmingham.

Benefield denied this on Saturday, saying he had never seen the proposed amendment. He also told APR that he was satisfied with the ongoing negotiations and that both he and Mothershed were still working together amicably to get the best possible bill.

“I just want to say thank you to the Governor's Office, Congressman (Andy) Whitt, Congressman (Chris) Blackshear, and everyone who worked so hard on this bill,” Benefield said. . “We believe we are working to pass legislation that works for all political parties and is most effective for the people of Alabama.”

One lawmaker who has worked closely with the parties involved told APR that he feels the issue will be resolved as there are “no major disagreements,” but opponents of the gaming bill are trying to seize the leaked document and “make it up.” “I did it,” he said. Discord between the parties. ”

“There are a lot of people who don't have the country's best interests at heart, and they're working overtime to stop this bill and are stooping to the bottom,” he said. “But we have a good bill and a lot of support.”

Rep. Andy Hoyt, who chaired the Legislature's gaming committee, blamed many of the problems on “out-of-state” groups opposed to the bill.

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“Despite what a few out-of-state funded groups say, the sole purpose of this bill is to provide Alabamians with the opportunity to make informed decisions about voting and to ensure that the state does not to be able to put them out of business,” Witt said. “I think it's very ironic that many of the people who are against this gaming bill are actually the biggest Trump supporters in Alabama. Have we forgotten that we made a lot of money in the industry? Despite all the threats and hypocritical rhetoric from members of Congress, I believe the current bill is well positioned to pass the House.”

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