A research group of Alabama state legislators recently announced plans for a comprehensive gaming bill in the Yellowhammer State. The bill would legalize casinos and sports betting in Alabama and create a state lottery.
One of the main arguments is that illegal gambling is already occurring throughout the state, and that in addition to legalizing specific establishments, there is a need to impose stiffer penalties for illegal gambling operations.
On Friday, state Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phoenix) made the case for the new law on Alabama Public Television's “Capitol Journal.”
“We're very naive and we're fooling ourselves if we don't think that's happening today,” Blackshear said of sports betting. “There are people who gamble every day with apps on their phones, whether it's through bookmakers in the states or if they have overseas accounts. It happens every day.
“In fact, last year in Alabama there were 1.93 million attempts to place illegal sports bets using cell phones. So that's what's happening.”
Blackshear said the bill could reduce gambling across the state by shutting down illegal establishments.
“So if you go to seven licensed casinos,” he said. “And Poearch Creek counts as well. Even if there were only 10 locations, from a casino perspective, that would go from hundreds of locations to 10 total. Then we would enforce these; We'll have an enforcement branch to regulate it, and we'll also tighten up all the penalties, and we'll put teeth into the law. To me, it's only going down significantly, not expanding.”
Blackshear acknowledged that the proposal likely won't satisfy everyone, but said it's the best compromise available this session.
“We knew it wouldn't be an easy task,” he said. Many people don't want to talk about it because it's not a perfect topic. But we think we have the best bill to address the problems Alabama has. ”
If the bill passes, any proposed constitutional amendment would need voter approval to become law.