The Alabama Republican Assembly this week announced their opposition to Senate Bill 319, which would legalize gambling in the state of Alabama and would authorize as many as nine casinos across the state — as well as a state lottery.
“Alabama Senate just passed a comprehensive gambling bill that will call for a vote of the people as a constitutional amendment,” the conservative group announced on social media late Tuesday. “The legislation now goes to the House. If passed by the House and the people of Alabama, it will allow for casinos up and down the state, online gambling, sports betting and a compact with the Poarch Creek Indians that will allow them to build a new casino in Northeast Alabama, as well as a state-sponsored lottery.”
The conservative Alabama Republican Assembly calls itself “the conscience of the Republican Party.”
“This legislation will forever transform the state of Alabama into a “Las Vegas East” and we will cease to be a family-friendly and conservative state,” the Republican Assembly wrote. “The Alabama Republican Assembly urges everyone to call your Alabama House of Representatives member and ask him/her to vote NO on SB319! Also, call Governor Ivey and tell her how disappointed you are in her efforts to push this gambling bill through the legislature.”
The Alabama Citizens Action Program also opposes the gambling legislation.
“While taking time to contact your Alabama House of Representatives member and asking him/her to vote NO on the comprehensive lottery/casino/online/sports-betting bill, SB319 that passed out of the Senate tonight, also contact the State Senators that voted NO on this terrible legislation and thank them for standing strong,” said Joe Godfrey, the director of ALCAP, to supporters on social media.
SB319 is sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville. It passed out of committee and on to the floor of the Alabama Senate as a simple lottery bill. It was carried over on Wednesday, April 7. After hours of negotiations on Tuesday, SB319 appeared back on the floor of the Senate for consideration.
McClendon asked that his bill be substituted for a more comprehensive gaming bill. Three amendments were then added to that bill on the Senate floor.
Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has been pushing a comprehensive gambling bill for years. His bill, SB214, was previously rejected by the Senate. The substitute version of SB319 with amendments incorporates the meat of SB214 into SB319.
There would be casino gambling in at least eight Alabama counties: Mobile, Houston, Escambia, Greene, Macon, Elmore, Jefferson and either Jackson or DeKalb counties. While the site near Chattanooga would be awarded to the highest bidder, the Poarch Creek Band of Indians would have the right to match any offer on the North Alabama site.
Marsh had authorized gambling in Lowndes County at the Whitehall facility, but that appears to have been dropped from this current plan.
“This is revenue that can be used to finance countless desperately needed projects for our state and improve the quality of life for those who live here,” Marsh said. “I am proud to have worked on this issue, and I am thankful to Senator McClendon for having pushed this bill through the Senate.”
Four Republican senators who had previously voted “no” on SB214 voted in favor of the substituted and amended SB319.
The legislation is now in the Alabama House of Representatives, where Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, has expressed support for comprehensive gambling legislation.
The legislation is based on the findings of Gov. Kay Ivey’s comprehensive task force on gaming that found that comprehensive legalization of gambling, as just passed the Senate, could generate as much as $500 to $800 million a year in additional state tax revenues.
SB319 is a constitutional amendment so if it does pass out of the Legislature, it must still be voted on by the voters of the state of Alabama.
Thursday is day 23 of the 2021 Legislative Session. With eight legislative days left, the House has plenty of time to act on bipartisan gambling, if the body so chooses.