Gov. Kay Ivey’s study group on gambling policy will release its report on the viability of expanding gambling in the state of Alabama. The group will hold a press conference on the front steps of the Alabama Capitol on Friday to announce its recommendations.
Sources have said that the governor’s group had been trying to reach a compromise deal between all the various stakeholders. The study group has tried to hammer out a deal that would be acceptable to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who operate bingo halls in Wetumpka, Atmore and Montgomery; the McGregor heirs who own Victoryland in Macon County and the Birmingham Race Course; Greenetrack; and the Legislature.
Proponents argue that legalizing gambling would bring additional revenues to the state of Alabama and would bring back Alabama dollars that now flow to lotteries in Georgia, Tennessee and Florida, and casinos in Mississippi.
Ivey asked that the Legislature not pass a lottery or other gaming bill until her study group could prepare its report. COVID-19 however pre-empted most of the 2020 Legislative Session. The global pandemic also slowed the work of the governor’s study group on gambling.
Not everyone is sold that this is a good idea. Joe Godfrey, the executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said hopefully there will be no expansion of gambling in Alabama, and they will follow existing law.
“It ought to remain illegal,” Godfrey said. Godfrey said that he spoke with the study group via conference call and explained his group’s opposition to expanding gambling.
Godfrey said that he presented the study group with a whitepaper showing that gambling does not work.
“It takes from the neediest and the only people who it benefits are the gambling bosses who get rich off of it,” Godfrey added.
Godfrey said that they have based those conclusions after studying the revenue from gambling in Arkansas.
“It will not bring in the money they say that it will,” Godfrey added. Godfrey disputed claims that a lottery could bring in $300 million and added that it will also decrease sales tax revenues.
The Legislature will have the opportunity to consider the study group’s recommendations when they convene in six weeks for the 2021 Legislative Session.