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Opinion | Future of gambling bill intensifies: War of words instead of facts

But amid this turmoil, what do the people of Alabama want?

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Inside the State House, a battle words is being waged—a confrontation that threatens the fate of a gaming bill years in the making. This isn’t just any legislative tiff; it’s a showdown that could determine the future of gambling in the state. The bill, having overwhelmingly passed in the House and backed by Gov. Kay Ivey, now finds itself in peril by the Senate, a battleground where strategy and influence could either forge new paths or maintain the status quo as the dueling legislation goes to conference committee.

The Senate bill unravels the progress made, preferring a version of the legislation that seems designed to scuttle the entire effort. But beneath the surface of this legislative discord stems from a more insidious threat: a disinformation campaign meticulously orchestrated to derail the bill. The architects of this chaos? A coalition of out-of-state gaming interests and illegal in-state gambling operations, entities with deep pockets and a vested interest in keeping Alabama’s gambling laws stagnant and malleable to their exploitative practices.

Yet, these external threats aren’t acting in isolation. They’ve found allies within Alabama, among them talk show radio hosts, segments of the right-wing media, and even institutions masquerading as bastions of conservatism and public interest. The involvement of groups such as the so-called conservative think tank API and legislative powerbroker Alfa Insurance in this disinformation campaign reveals a disturbing alliance between external interests and local entities, casting a shadow over their proclaimed advocacy for traditional values and free enterprise.

But amid this turmoil, what do the people of Alabama want?

A recent survey conducted by KAConsulting LLC, spearheaded by Kellyanne Conway, reveals a striking consensus among Alabama voters. An overwhelming 89 percent underscore the importance of bringing the gambling issue to the ballot. The numbers are telling: 69 percent of voters have sought gambling experiences outside state lines; 74 percent advocate for legalizing gambling, including casinos, lotteries, and sports betting; and a striking 98 percent of proponents and 69 percent of opponents agree on the necessity of a ballot decision.

Further illustrating voter sentiment, 78 percent would support political candidates who favor bringing this issue to the ballot, with 59 percent expressing strong agreement. The interest in gambling activities is substantial, with 70 percent eager to participate in a state lottery and 60 percent looking forward to visiting casinos.

These statistics are not mere numbers; they represent a clarion call from Alabama’s electorate for a fair and open dialogue on gambling. Moreover, the survey indicates that 69 percent of respondents, and 77 percent when considering their acquaintances, have engaged in gambling activities outside Alabama, highlighting a potential market ready to support in-state gaming initiatives.

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Parallel findings from another Republican survey reinforce this sentiment, showcasing robust support among GOP voters for comprehensive gambling legislation, particularly concerning a state lottery, with overall support at 74.1 percent and GOP backing at 72.6 percent. Support for casino gaming also registers strong, with 65 percent of the total respondents and 61 percent of GOP voters in favor, reflecting a statewide readiness to welcome the casino gaming.

Voters also have clear preferences for the allocation of lottery funds, with substantial support for directing proceeds toward K-12 education, road and bridge improvements, and rural healthcare expansion.

These findings illustrate a clear mandate from Alabama’s electorate: a united call for the legalization of gambling and the democratic process to decide its fate. With voters poised to actively participate in legalized gambling activities, the state stands at the threshold of a new era in gaming and its associated economic and educational benefits.

As this legislative saga unfolds, it’s crucial to cut through the noise and misdirection. The will of the people is clear. They want the opportunity to cast their votes on this pivotal issue, to make an informed decision on the future of gambling in Alabama. This isn’t just a question of legalizing gambling; it’s about embracing democratic principles, ensuring economic development, and safeguarding the interests of Alabama’s citizens against those who seek to manipulate the legislative process for their narrow ends.

The battle in the State House is more than a legislative skirmish; it’s a defining moment for Alabama, a test of whether the state can move forward into a new era of prosperity and openness or remain ensnared in the web of disinformation and external manipulation. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the voice of Alabama’s electorate has never been clearer. It’s time for lawmakers to listen and act accordingly, for the future of Alabama hangs in the balance.

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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