Alabama Lawmakers Reach Compromise on Gambling Bill, Need to Find One More Vote in Senate

Alabama lawmakers are as close as they could possibly be to passing a gambling expansion bill without having done so yet. The Senate and House members tasked with finding a compromise on the legislation managed to do so this week, but the Senate remains one vote short of what it needs to pass the bill.

The House passed the compromise bill easily, by a margin of 72-29. Meanwhile, Gov. Kay Ivey has pushed lawmakers to pass some sort of gambling bill this year. So, that single vote is all that stands in the way of Alabama voters getting their say on gambling in a November referendum. Alabama’s constitution forbids gambling, so the new law would require a ballot question.

The House and Senate each passed a gambling bill during the legislature’s regular session. However, the two versions differed on which types of gambling they included. That disagreement threatened to sink the whole effort.

Per the Associated Press, the bill hasn’t failed in the Senate. President Pro Tempore Greg Reed told reporters that there will be another vote if the bill’s supporters can wrangle the extra vote:

We had a vote that ended up being a test vote. The bills are carried over, so the legislation is still available to us to continue to debate it.

A majority of Senators are ready to vote in favor of the bill. However, because it would amend the Constitution, it needs a two-thirds supermajority to pass or 21 votes. The test vote came up 20 votes to 15. 

Compromise: Slots In, Tables & Sports Betting Out

The original House version of the bill was fairly ambitious for a state with very little legal gambling to begin with. As it stands, Class II tribal casinos—bingo halls, essentially—are the only officially sanctioned gambling in the state. The House bill would have upgraded these to full casinos, added commercial competition (plus one additional tribal casino), created a state lottery, and legalized sports betting.

This proved to be too much for the Senate. It came back with a different proposal that included only the lottery and upgraded tribal casinos. Instead of commercial casinos, it suggested off-track parimutuel betting parlors with historical horse racing (HHR) machines.

The House firmly rejected that proposal. To keep the bill alive, the chambers came together to form a conference committee and reach a compromise.

Commercial gambling in the new bill falls somewhere in between the other two versions. The compromise bill allows for the installation of slots and other electronic games at four former dog-racing tracks and three bingo halls, rather than HHR machines and off-track betting. Sports betting will remain illegal.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the three versions of the bill:

Regulatory BodiesYesYesYes
State LotteryYesYesYes
Sports BettingYesNoNo
Commercial SlotsYesNoYes
Commercial Table GamesYesNoNo
Class III Tribal GamingYesYesYes
New Tribal CasinoYesNoNo
Off-Track Betting & HHRNoYesNo

About the Author

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon is an online gambling industry analyst with nearly ten years of experience. He currently serves as Casino News Managing Editor for, part of the Catena Media Network. Other gambling news sites he has contributed to include PlayUSA and Online Poker Report, and his writing has been cited in The Atlantic.
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