The Alabama Legislature is in the midst of a 10-day pause before it resumes formal consideration of a bill that would ask voters to approve – via constitutional amendment — a lottery, casino gaming and sports betting.
A commission appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey recommended the expansion as a way to generate new revenue for the state, but Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon tells News 19, legislators still have questions.
The idea of an Alabama lottery was once very controversial, and was rejected by voters in 2002, now, it’s the least controversial part of the gaming bill proposed Alabama Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
“I think House members are interested in the lottery issue for sure,” Speaker McCutcheon said. “I think there are some questions among members about the specifics of other gaming locations and the type of gaming that the bill would allow.
“And so, members are still in a wait and see mode. They are looking at the draft legislation that’s out there and they’re asking a lot of questions. But there’s not a lot, I don’t get the feeling that the members of the House are saying no at this point.”
Among other things, the bill calls for five casinos, four at existing sites including in Birmingham, Mobile, Greene and Macon counties. The fifth site – yet to be determined – is proposed for DeKalb or Jackson county, though McCutcheon said it appears that selection process is still ongoing.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is leading the call for casino-style gaming and has offered to enter into an agreement with Alabama projected to pay millions in annual revenue, in exchange for control of gaming rights.
McCutcheon says the upcoming debate will largely focus on two major questions: Where is the money going? And, how far into the casino gaming world is Alabama headed?
“It will be a little bit of both,” he said. “And I say that from years past when we have dealt with lottery issues and gaming itself. I think both of those are two very important questions and they bring concerns from the legislative members moving forward.”
McCutcheon said he wants to speak to the major players involved, but he said a deal could happen this year.
“I think we’re closer than we’ve been since we started talking about gaming in the state of Alabama,” he said. “I really do. I think we’ve come to a point where some of these people are at the table now, they’re wanting to sit down and talk and work this out.”