Alabama, the holdout deep southern state once known as “The Heart of Dixie, is moving towards legal gambling, sports betting and a lottery.
Hitherto, the Cotton State has only allowed superannuated bingo gaming in Native American tribal-owned casinos for entertainment and prizes — but no cash winnings.
But now a bill that would allow proper casino gaming, sports betting and a state lottery is poised to run before the state senate.
Senate Bill 294–proposed by Republican Senator Greg Albritton–would tax gambling at 20 per cent of net revenue; Internet sports betting operators would have to pay a licence fee of US$100,000 (£76,630/€91,380), and the bill would also create an Alabama lottery, along with a gaming commission to regulate gambling in the state.
Currently, Alabama is one of only five, among the country’s 50, states not to have a state lottery.
At the moment the Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only group allowed to offer gaming in Alabama.
They operate three, so-called Class 11, casinos or gaming facilities with only video bingo machines and no table games.
The new bill would allow the Poarch, and new, casinos to offer the full gamut of games and gaming: slot machines, video lottery terminals, pari-mutuel horse race betting, roulette and card games, such as poker, blackjack and baccarat.
Perhaps mindful of the state’s conservative constituency, Senator Albritton has claimed: “This is not a gaming expansion. This is a gaming control bill, so that the state exercises its sovereignty over this industry, just like it does the chicken industry, just like the banking industry.
“It exercises a sovereignty and it regulates the operations. It controls the growth in locations and it taxes them.”
But Joe Godfrey, Executive Director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, which advocates on behalf of churches and opposes gambling and alcohol, said Albritton’s plan would indeed expand gambling.
“It’s expanding tremendously,” he asserted.
Sweet music indeed for the pro-gaming lobby in down home Alabama.