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Alabama House approves plan for lottery, 10 casinos

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The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday night approved a compromise plan for a lottery and 10 casinos, moving the legislation one step away from going to voters to have the final say.

Seven of the 10 casinos would be with electronic machines only, with no table games. The other three, which would be full-scale casinos, would be operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians on tribal lands.

The House approved HB151, a constitutional amendment, by a vote of 72-29. It required at least 63 votes. A few minutes later, the House passed HB152, the second bill in the package that spells out some of the specifics in the plan, by a vote of 70-29.

The two bills go next to the Senate, which could approve them and send a proposed constitutional amendment to the ballot for a special election on Aug. 20.

It was not immediately clear when the Senate would consider the bills. The Senate took a recess Tuesday night shortly after the House approved the bills to discuss the legislation in its Republican and Democratic caucuses. No specific time for a return was announced.

Alabama voters last had a chance to vote on a lottery in 1999.

The compromise plan approved by the House authorizes a lottery with the proceeds going to educational purposes. It authorizes gambling on electronic games of chance at seven locations – former greyhound tracks in Jefferson, Mobile, Macon, and Greene counties, plus at what are now bingo halls in Greene, Houston, and Lowndes counties. There would be no table games, such as blackjack or craps.

HB152 defines electronic games of chance as “electronic gambling machines, including, but not limited to, any slot machines as defined in (federal law), pachinko, video lottery terminals, and video poker; electronic bingo machines; and historical horse racing machines.”

The plan calls for the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians for gambling on tribal lands in Atmore, Wetumpka, and Montgomery. That could include all forms of casino-style gambling played in-person.

The plan does not include sports betting, which was part of an earlier plan passed by the House, but was not in the Senate’s plan.

The plan would create an Alabama Gambling Commission that would regulate and enforce gambling laws statewide. It would repeal 17 local amendments that allow bingo in specific counties effective September 2026. And it would prohibit future local amendments.

It would allow traditional paper bingo and raffles, all regulated by the new gambling commission.

The two bills, HB151 and HB152, were approved earlier Tuesday by a conference committee of three representatives and three senators. The conference committee was appointed after the House and Senate passed much different versions of the plan back in February and March.

“We’re never going to have 100% what everybody wants,” said Rep. Chip Brown, a Republican from Mobile County. “This is about as good a bill as we’re ever going to get. I think it’s time. 1999 was way too long.”

Alabama is one of five states that do not have lotteries. The four states that border Alabama have lotteries.

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, said she sometimes buys lottery tickets when the jackpots get large.

“I get in the car and drive myself up to the Tennessee line, and I think about how many young people I’m helping in Tennessee when I could be helping them in Alabama,” Hall said.

Hall said people in her district want a chance to vote on a lottery.

Rep. Arnold Mooney, a Republican from Shelby County, spoke in opposition to the bills, saying the legislation would increase poverty and other problems, partly because of the addictive nature of gambling.

Read HB151.

Read HB152.

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