It seemed as if they were all having a grand ol’ time – all of those top Alfa Insurance agents strolling along the Las Vegas strip, taking in the sites, rolling the dice and gambling the night away. It’s a shame it couldn’t have been happening here.
Instead, just a few months after its top agents were enjoying themselves in Vegas, the company’s grassroots political organization – the Alabama Farmers Federation – is once again attempting to block gambling legislation that might allow the company’s home state to reap similar benefits.
According to numerous lawmakers who have spoken with APR, Alfa has made it clear to them that they will likely face primary opposition or other obstacles if they back an expected comprehensive gaming bill that lawmakers plan to introduce early in the session.
Just why the Farmers Federation is so dead set against gambling has always been a mystery to me. It’s even more so now, after learning of the insurance company’s retreat to Las Vegas.
Just a week or so back, an Alfa spokesperson explained its opposition to gambling by quoting the grassroots organization’s policy: “We oppose gambling in all forms including casino gaming, state lottery, sports betting, electronic gaming, and online gambling.”
This week, after I inquired about the Alfa retreat held last April in Vegas, where the main attraction is all of those forms of gambling, another statement said this: “Alfa Insurance agents can earn incentive travel based on reaching sales production goals. Venues compete for a chance to host these trips. Locations have included a variety of destinations both in Alabama and elsewhere. Location decisions are based on several factors including cost, hotel accommodations, ease of travel, and dining and recreation options. The area around Las Vegas provided top agents a variety of opportunities including sightseeing at the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, golf, outdoor adventures, musical performances, shopping and dining.”
Now, I’m not going to waste time poking holes in this statement. There’s no reason to do it. You all see what was attempted, and I don’t fault the spokesperson. Guy was in a difficult spot, did all he could. There just ain’t enough PR-speak in the world to make anyone believe that Alfa chose Vegas for the golf or shopping.
Really, though, all that matters here is that they, like millions of others, chose Vegas. Because of the casinos, and all that those casino resorts have brought to the Strip. The shows. The sporting events. The shopping. The golf. The restaurants.
That’s the progress that Alfa is trying to stop in this state.
No, of course I don’t believe that Alabama – no matter what sort of gambling legislation we pass – will ever have a Vegas strip, or anything even close to it. But at least we could have nice, classy resorts that bring in a variety of different entertainment options and create vacation destinations around the state instead of having 500 different illegal casinos in the back of Dave’s Sip-N-Go Truck Stops.
And we could have the tax revenue.
And we could get the visitors to those casinos to also try out our pretty great outdoor attractions, shopping and restaurants.
I bet those millions of people traveling through our state every year on the way to a variety of beaches wouldn’t mind a stopover at a nice casino resort. Or how about the folks heading to a ballgame in Auburn or Tuscaloosa or Birmingham? Or on the way to the mountains through northeast Alabama?
Maybe they’re booking trips to the Robert Trent Jones golf courses during their stays, and boosting those retirement funds. Maybe they’re booking fishing or hunting trips. Maybe they’re visiting our Civil Rights museums.
But here’s the thing – no matter what, they’re coming here. Or they’re staying here instead of heading out to other states. And Alabama is finally seeing the tax benefits from all of this gambling that’s already happening, or stopping the flow of our money to the gambling in other states around us.
What that Alfa retreat should prove to everyone is that gambling has so lost its forbidden mystique that even an organization dead set against all forms of gambling would hold their retreat in a place famous for its gambling. It should let everyone know that it’s time to set aside these ridiculous, outdated stigmas and ignore the phony outrage from those being paid by out-of-state entities to pretend to be outraged and finally pass a reasonable, responsible gambling plan.
And it’s time we stopped pretending that gambling isn’t happening all around us, including in this state, and pass laws that allow Alabamians to finally benefit from the games.