Alabama Gaming Bills Dead in the Water as Legislative Session Ends

Law & Politics Legislation
Edward Scimia

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Edward Scimia


Last Updated 13th May 2024, 02:11 PM

Alabama Gaming Bills Dead in the Water as Legislative Session Ends

Alabama lawmakers in the House of Representatives were not able to find common ground with their colleagues on the other side of the state capitol in the Senate to pass a gambling expansion bill. (Image: Julie Bennett/Associated Press/Alamy)

Thursday was the final day of the Alabama Legislature’s 2024 session, and without a dramatic last-minute reversal, a pair of gambling bills to legalize real money online casinos, once again came up just short of passage.

The Alabama House overwhelmingly passed two bills that would give voters the chance to vote on a comprehensive gaming package in the state last week, but the Senate came up one vote short of passing that same legislation, and efforts to flip one or more Senators to yes votes have failed.

House Points Finger at Senate for Stalling Gambling Bill

The bills -- a compromise between a more robust House package and a modest Senate approach -- would authorize a constitutional amendment to allow an educational lottery as well as electronic gaming casinos at seven existing dog tracks and bingo halls. The package would also allow the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to have casinos at three properties owned by the tribe. 

The Senate’s inability to get a key 21st vote, which would have met the 60 percent threshold needed to pass the bill, has led to frustration and inter-chamber feuds between the House and Senate.

“At this point, I am really unsure of exactly what the Senate is doing or the direction they are heading,” Alabama Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest) told WHNT News 19. “The House has passed the gaming legislation twice and now it’s totally up to the Senate to allow the people to vote. My grandmother always told me, the only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance.”

One factor that has frustrated some legislators and voters alike is the perceived widespread support for a lottery in the state – something 45 states already have. At least some legislators that have voted no against the current gaming package say they would support a vote on just a lottery.

“I think the people of Alabama deserve – want and deserve a lottery vote – however the bill is always hijacked by gambling interests wanting to expand gaming in the state,” Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) told News 19. “I’m committed to pushing next session for that lottery bill that just gives the citizens the right to vote on the lottery.”

Legislators Tie Gambling to Other Late Session Bills

The fight over the gambling legislation spilled over into other bills that lawmakers were attempting to pass in the final days of the legislative session.

State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) sponsored a bill that would provide a governing corporation along with tax breaks for a proposed Alabama Farm Center in Jefferson County that would be able to host livestock shows, rodeos, and other agricultural events. However, two House members who supported the gambling legislation – Whitt and Sam Jones (D-Mobile) withheld their approval of the bill in conference committee, preventing it from getting a full vote in the state legislature.

“It’s all because of gambling,” Shelnutt told reporters on Tuesday. “The gambling interests aren’t getting their way. They’ve decided that they’re going to take a stance and kill this bill.”

While Jones and Whitt have denied that the move was retribution for the Senate’s failure to pass the gaming legislation, at least one Senator did connect the two issues.

“I can’t understand for the life of me that [the Alabama Farmers Federation] continues to want to have what they want, but we had a gaming bill that was out here that was going to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars into the state but they fought so hard against the gaming bill and then therefore are now going to turn around and come and ask us for about $80 million next year,” Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said, according to 1819 News. “How do you stop a funding source and then going to turn around and ask me for money?”

Shelnutt responded by threatening to hold up every House bill in the Seante. 

“As far as I’m concerned, we just need to pass the budgets and go home,” Shelnutt said in the Senate. “There’s no other House bills, local bills, I’m sorry for you.”

Ultimately the Alabama Farm Center bill moved forward, which prompted the Senate to resume action on House bills waiting for approval in the final days of the legislative session. 

But while tensions may be lower between the two chambers of the Alabama legislature, the future of gambling legislation in the state remains in doubt, disappointing those who believed this would be the year the state finally took up a gaming bill.

“I just hope the senators that voted no and couldn’t get on board take time to drive around the state and see for themselves the problems we have in all 67 counties,” Rep. Chirs Blackshear (R-Phenix City) said before the bill met its inevitable demise.


Meet The Author

16 Years
Edward Scimia
Edward Scimia
Journalist Journalist

Ed Scimia is a freelance writer who has been covering the gaming industry since 2008. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2003 with degrees in Magazine Journalism and Political Science. In his time as a freelancer, Ed has worked for,, and, among other sites. He has also authored multiple books and enjoys curling competitively, which has led to him creating curling-related content for his YouTube channel "Chess on Ice."

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