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Ledbetter supports major gambling bill, aims to end illegal operations in Alabama

Alabama may be poised to resolve the long-standing debate on gaming and finally let its people decide.

Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter.

In a notable shift toward regulating gambling in Alabama, Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, has been vocal about his support for forthcoming gambling legislation.

This development follows his establishment of a committee dedicated to crafting a comprehensive bill. Sources close to the committee’s work reveal that the proposed legislation seeks to legalize gaming at select locations statewide, alongside enhancing regulation and fortifying laws against illicit gambling activities.

At the heart of Ledbetter’s advocacy is a firm belief in the necessity of regulating gaming to eradicate illegal gambling within Alabama. His stance was clearly articulated during an event at the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center, as first reported by WDHN.

“We got to clean it up because it’s bringing a lot of ill will in the state. I mean, we’ve been better off to try to clean it up, put a committee together to recognize what’s going on, and so we’ll see what they come up with,” Ledbetter said.

The responsibility of drafting this pivotal gaming bill has been entrusted to Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Harvest. The bill is expected to address the regulation, taxation, and defining of gaming parameters in the state.

Alabama’s current legal framework permits gaming at parimutuel tracks and facilities operated by The Poarch Band of Creek Indians. After the 2023 Legislative Session, Gov. Kay Ivey expressed disappointment over the Legislature’s failure to pass a gaming bill.

“I was disappointed that they did not get the gambling bill passed. Not that I am so much for gambling, but I do think the people of Alabama ought to have the right to make that decision,” Ivey said at the time, emphasizing the need for a public vote.

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Gaming legislation, as a constitutional amendment, necessitates a direct vote from Alabama’s citizens, with the Legislature’s role limited to setting the voting parameters.

The journey of gambling legislation in Alabama has been tumultuous, spanning over two decades with intermittent attempts at legalization. Despite multiple efforts, the Legislature has historically encountered hurdles in passing such legislation.

However, Ledbetter’s recent comments to APR signal a renewed commitment to addressing this issue.

“We just can’t let this go on any longer,” he said. “It’s a public safety issue. People want to push back against this as saying we’re expanding gambling, but that’s absolutely not the case. If we pass this legislation and put in place serious enforcement and regulations, we’ll go from more than a thousand gambling outfits to just around 10 — 10 that are well-regulated and licensed.”

Gambling proponents, especially in the Senate, have previously criticized House leadership for the stagnation of gaming bills. Not only were the bills not brought to vote, but there was also a perceived lack of support from the leadership. With Ledbetter’s commitment to eradicating illegal gaming and strictly regulating legal gaming, it seems Alabama is poised to resolve the long-standing debate on gaming and finally let its people decide.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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