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The gambling fight gets messier

Substitute bills and lots of new ideas seem destined to sink the gambling legislation, denying Alabamians an opportunity to vote.

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Apparently, some gambling is OK. 

Alabama senators continued over the last few days to argue behind the scenes over the issue of gambling, with a number of different proposals being floated. The plan carefully crafted by House members and passed by that body has been deemed “too expansive” by a number of senators, who seem determined to whittle down that bill into something much less substantive. 

The emerging plans – all of which have no chance of receiving House concurrence, a House source told APR – range from a lottery-only proposal to lottery-full Poarch Creek casinos historical horse racing at current dog tracks. There are a number of proposals that fall in between those two.

The back and forth, the changing goal posts, the refusal to negotiate in good faith and the multiple changes over the last few weeks have started to wear thin on senators, and it is also frustrating House members. 

“All of this is a colossal waste of time,” a House source told APR. “We’re not approving a monopoly for the Poarch Creeks – we don’t have the votes to pass that. They know that upstairs. A lottery-only can’t pass either. 

“Can I also say that this doesn’t pass the logic test? So you’re for some gambling – some full casinos – but not four more casinos? You’re for this kind of gambling but not that kind? Or is what you’re actually trying to do is kill the bills while pretending that you’re trying real hard? I think we know the answer. They think people are stupid.”

Sen. Greg Albritton, the sponsor of the gambling legislation in the senate, has expressed his frustrations with a number of senators who he says has been less than forthright in negotiating the legislation. 

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Monday was a particularly irritating day for many of the lawmakers involved in the talks. The day started with what appeared to be one consensus and ended with another. And still, lawmakers are not settled. 

The House version gave voters an opportunity to legalize a lottery, sports wagering, up to 10 casino locations and authorized the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (their three current locations would be included in the 10 licenses). The current agreement, which may or may not be on paper somewhere, would allow for a statewide lottery and would require Gov. Kay Ivey to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Creeks for only their three current locations. 

“So we’re going to legalize full casino gambling, but only in places where no people are – if there’s a more Alabama way of doing this I’d love to hear it,” said a senator with knowledge of the negotiations. “We’ve got a billion dollars a year on the table and these people are going to pass a bunch of gambling but only take half the money to appease Alfa.”

It’s also unclear if the legislature can force Ivey to negotiate a compact, or dictate terms. Ivey has indicated that she prefers the House version of the legislation and would not be willing to go along with just any other plan. 

The gambling legislation – in some form or another – is set to appear in the Senate’s Tourism Committee on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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