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Since 2022, ALFA, PCI donated over $310,000 to senators who killed gambling bill

Almost every senator who voted to kill the gambling bill has received significant contributions from ALFA or the PCI.

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One of the most contentious issues in Alabama’s state legislature for several sessions has been the legalization of gambling: whether to do it at all, where the money should go, and what specifically should be legalized.

It seems like every legislative session, folks who are for and who are against expanding gambling pour vast amounts of money, time, and effort into the issue, just for the idea to get shot down again.

For a couple days in the past session, though, it looked like the legislature might actually send the issue to Alabama voters and let them decide. If legalizing gambling had ended up on the ballot, it almost certainly would have passed: polls regularly show supermajority support for expanding legal gambling.

But even after the state Senate watered down the House’s proposed legislation, 15 holdouts prevented HB151 from reaching the three-fifths threshold in the Senate needed for proposed constitutional amendments.

Over the last couple years leading up to their recent high profile stand against letting voters decide whether to legalize gambling, all but one of the fifteen have received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from two organizations: the Alabama Farmers Association and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The 15 senators who voted against the gambling legislation were:

  • Greg Albritton, R-Atmore
  • Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa
  • Lance Bell, R-Springville
  • Tom Butler, R-Huntsville
  • Josh Carnley, R-Elba
  • Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope
  • Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville
  • Keith Kelley, R-Anniston
  • Wes Kitchens, R-Arab
  • Arthur Orr, R-Decatur
  • Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook
  • Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville
  • Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield
  • April Weaver, R-Brierfield
  • and Jack W. Williams, R-Wilmer

Outside of these fifteen, the most prominent opponents of legalizing gambling in Alabama are the aforementioned Alabama Farmers Federation, or ALFA, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, occasionally called the PCI.

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Preston Roberts, ALFA’s director of agricultural legislation, has said that the organization believes “gambling would increase government, make the poor poorer, and lead to personal and societal harm, including addiction and debt.”

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians run the vast majority of legal gambling in the state. They operate Alabama’s only three legal casinos, located in Atmore, Wetumpka, and Montgomery, and make hundreds of millions every year from their effective monopoly.

Both organizations are incredibly politically active in the state. ALFA regularly endorses candidates, produces voter guides, and has a governmental affairs team to “ensure laws and regulations address the interests of farmers and rural Alabamians.”

All of the senators who sunk gambling legalization this year were included on ALFA’s 2022 general election voter guide. Albritton, Bell, Butler, Roberts, and Shelnutt were also featured in ALFA’s 2022 primary election voter guide.

Both ALFA and the PCI also donate hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to politicians and PACs.

Since 2022, ALFA has donated a total of $404,717 to various political candidates and PACs throughout the state. 

ALFA’s political action committee FARMPAC donated $1,542,811.63 to political candidates during the same time period.

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Since 2022, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians have donated a total of $682,891 to various Alabama politicians and PACs.

14 of the 15 senators received cash or in-kind donations from ALFA and/or the Poarch Creek Band of Indians since 2022, with the sole exception of Williams.

In total, over the past two years, ALFA and its PAC donated more than $262,000 to the 15 senators Blackshear accused of killing the gambling bills. That’s an average of around $16,800 per senator.

In comparison, since 2022, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians have only donated to 4 of the 15: Albritton received $30,000, Kelley received $15,000, Bell received $10,000, and Elliott received $5,000.

Chance Phillips is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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