By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Last Tuesday, Birmingham Mayor William Bell offered his support to the omnibus gaming bill sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.
Standing at the podium on the third floor of the State House Bell said, “I see this not as a gaming issue, but as an economic development issue.”
As if ripped from the best political play book, Bell, in so many words said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Under Marsh’s plan, the State could experience a $1.28 billion economic impact, while creating at least 11,000 new jobs, and much of that could go to Birmingham.
Under Marsh’s proposal, the Birmingham Race Course would be allowed to offer Las Vegas-style gaming, as well as first-class horse racing.
Bell’s administration has done what many thought would be impossible: winning the bid to host the World Games in 2021. Many believe this is a major step toward reintroducing Birmingham as a first-class city.
Bell said that the World Games would bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the metro area, as well as the State. He believes the addition of world-class gaming would be good for the World Games and also for the long-term future of the State’s largest city.
In his remarks on Tuesday, Bell underscored the fact that 400 undeveloped acres in the metro area could be turned into a entertainment destination unlike any in the Southeast. Unfortunately, Birmingham, in comparison to other Southern metro areas such as, Raleigh, Charlotte, Nashville or Orlando, has experienced anemic growth.
Birmingham is a city with enormous potential, but without a hook.
“This could be a tool that we use to get people to come here for our conferences and conventions, said.”
It could also be a reason for people to stay.