Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox says legalized sports betting in Alabama will provide needed revenue

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Kickoff is Saturday for Alabama and Auburn’s football teams. Labor Day is also regarded as the kickoff for campaign season. And this year, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate has a proposal that could combine the two.

With Republican Gov. Kay Ivey the presumed front-runner, Democrat Walt Maddox is looking for ways to shake up the status quo and bring new ideas to the campaign.

He offered one such idea this week.


But, given Alabama is the center of the college football landscape, WHNT News 19 political analyst Jess Brown says the idea may not fly here.

"I think that’s a bad political calculus on the part of Mr. Maddox, to entertain sports betting," Brown said.  "Because in Alabama, if you’re going to go with sports betting are you going to extend into intercollegiate athletics?"

Fears over sports gambling include the prospect of someone trying to influence young players to affect outcomes,  bettors looking to buy information and the social cost of regular betting.

"And unless things have dramatically changed, the culture inside the athletic departments at the University of Alabama and Auburn University, my guess would be they’re going to be fundamentally opposed to wagering involving their amateur athletic operation," Brown said. "At least, in theory, amateur athletic operations."

Maddox may also have to look for a blitz late in the campaign, Brown says.

"And, I’d hate to be a candidate for governor and in October have Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn jump on my, any aspect, of my campaign.

Brown said coaches are quite reluctant to get involved in state politics, but, on sports betting that could change.

"Those universities might just get involved," he said. "They might speak up. The university presidents and, or, the football coaches.

WHNT News 19 contacted the Maddox campaign today on the issue, and a spokesman provided a response.

"Mississippi is taking advantage of this opportunity to improve their state finances without raising taxes and that’s exactly what Walt Maddox will do as governor."

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