Legalized gambling in Alabama is a long shot and a long road, but the first roadblock has been cleared as of August 4, 2015. The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee voted on a proposal for a referendum that would allow a state lottery and casinos in the Yellowhammer state. The casinos would be Las Vegas style and located at the existing four dog tracks. The committee voted 6 to 2 in favor of the legislative changes ahead of a possible heated battle in the rotunda. It could take until next year or even longer. The plan is backed by the powerful Republican Senate President Pro Tem, Del Marsh. He believes Alabama residents should have the deciding vote on whether the state constitution will be changed for the legalization of gambling.
Marsh stated, “The people understand that this is an option that needs to be out there.”
A public hearing had opponents to the change stating that gambling would be a “poor public policy” and prey on the state’s poor rather than help with employment. Those who support the change in legislation are also looking at the casino tax that would be paid to the state. Studies have shown the measure could help Alabama’s threadbare budget in time.
Pat Dye, a former football coach at Auburn University, supports the legislation stating gambling already exists through the Indian Bingo Casinos, who operate without any competition or remuneration to the state. With gambling already occurring, but not revenue from the activity, many say that it makes sense to increase the market share in favor of the Alabama coffers.
On an annual basis gambling would bring an estimated $300 million to the state education budget and about $75 million for the state’s general coffers. One opponent thinks lawmakers are being manipulated into letting gambling happen.
Senator Dick Brewbacker said, “It’s a way to prey on families. It’s a voluntary unlimited tax on the portion of our community least able to sustain it and that’s why I’m against it.”
Senator Bobby Singleton who supports the legislative change said the opponents have not supported any other way to help his “poverty-stricken district” either. Singleton is looking to help his constituents gain employment and education, yet he feels there has been no help in getting other more acceptable proposals through.
A recent report commissioned by pro-gambling group, Alabama Jobs Foundation showed 89% of those surveyed support the idea of legalized gambling in Alabama.