Alabama advances scaled-back gambling bills with sports betting excluded

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Alabama lawmakers passed HB151 and HB152 in February. In its original form, HB151 would have legalised retail and online sports betting – as well as a state lottery and casinos in areas of the state that have bingo-type games. HB152, meanwhile, was to create a state lottery and gaming commission to regulate gambling in the state.

However, HB151 stalled in the Senate, with sports betting and casinos now removed from the bill. The amended HB151 passed by a vote of 22 to 11 on Thursday, reaching the 21 votes required to advance. Meanwhile, bill HB152 also passed.

The bills still include lottery. Additionally, the bills would authorise the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PBCI) to regulate gaming activities on tribal lands. The PBCI operates the three existing casinos in Alabama.

Senator Greg Albritton believed the changes were necessary and will allow Alabama to gain “control” of the gambling industry.

The legislation will now go to the House of Representatives. Should it advance from there, the electorate would vote in September 2024 to seek final approval for legalisation.

However, if the House doesn’t approve all of the amendments, the bills will instead go to a conference committee in order to find a middle ground.

What the bills include

The bills would authorise pari-mutuel wagering with a tax of between 24% and 32%.

Pari-mutuel wagering would be legal at four racetracks in Alabama, as well as an additional location in Greene County. Two existing bingo halls would also be permitted to offer pari-mutuel wagering.

Additionally, the PBCI would be authorised to have casino-style games and sports wagering, as well as bingo, on tribal lands.

Tax benefits to Alabama

previous expectations were for expanded gambling to bring in around $1.2bn to the state

According to the fiscal notes of HB152, the legalisation of lottery could bring in $305.6m (£237.7m/€279.2m) to $379.4m a year in net revenue.

However, the removal of casino would see an estimated $315m-$492.2m in net gaming revenue (NGR) missed out upon. The inclusion of sports betting, meanwhile, would have brought in approximately $15m-$41.5m in NGR.

Representative Chris Blackshear previously stated that expanded gambling could bring in as much as $1.2bn to the state. $300m of that total would come from a compact with the PBCI.

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