Gambling on Hold…For Now

Legislators did not consider the Senate-amended gambling legislation this week. HB 151, a constitutional amendment, and HB 152, the enabling legislation, by Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City, would exponentially expand gambling in Alabama if passed by the Legislature and approved by voters.
The Senate versions of the bill are still an expansion of gambling. The Senate versions provide for a state-run lottery, the establishment of a gambling commission with an enforcement division, and amnesty for existing gambling establishments operating under local constitutional amendments. Current operators in Greene, Houston, Jefferson, Lowndes, Macon and Mobile counties would be legalized and enabled to continue operations. Those sites would be authorized to conduct live horse or dog racing and would also be given the ability to operate historical horse racing machines (the functional equivalent of slot machines).
In addition, the bills require the Governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Creek Indian tribe to allow the expansion of their operations. The Senate version of the gambling bills changed the date of the ballot initiative for this casino legalization/expansion bill to a special election slated for Sept. 10th.

The money from gambling operations would be separated into thirds (General Fund, Education Trust Fund, and AL Department of Transportation projects) and put into the queue for legislative appropriations. An amendment was added on the floor to recalculate and segregate certain revenues to pay for prisons. In short, gambling money will be used to further expand the power and scope of state government.

The debate isn’t over as the Senate passed bills must still return to the House for concurrence. If/when the House disagrees with Senate changes, a conference committee attempts to develop a compromise bill. Those new bills would have to meet approval by both houses. HB 151 and 152 are expected to be taken up by the House when the Legislature returns after spring break next week.

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