Alabama Governor Wants Voter Input on Gambling

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey will not allow a tribal gaming compact to take place in the state until she has the approval of the voters.

Gambling efforts are ramping up in the state of Alabama. For the past few months, studies have been conducted, and lawmakers continually looking at ways to use a gambling expansion to bring in new revenues. Laws have been introduced that cover lottery gaming as well as sports betting and tribal gaming extensions, one of which would require a compact to be created with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. This week, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced that she will not even consider negotiating a tribal gaming compact until voters have shown they want to see gambling grow in the state.

Major Expansion Under Consideration

This year, the state is heavily considering expanding gambling for new revenues. There is bipartisan support for a lottery to be created and sports betting. But, Ivey is not ready to support table games or slots until voters are able to have their say via a referendum on the ballot.

Right now, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are the only federally recognized tribe in the state. The tribe wants a Class III gaming compact. With this compact in place, the three casinos operated by the tribe can go from bingo-style machines to slots and table games. Full-scale casino gaming would be a great way to increase the traffic at the casinos and bring in new revenues to the state.

Tribe that are federally recognized in the US can provide Class 1 and II gaming on sovereign land. However, for Class III gaming, a tribe must come to a compact agreement with the state to get started, including a plan for revenue sharing.

For the state to expand gambling in any way other than tribal gaming, Alabama requires voter approval. A simple majority will then pass the measure and the state constitution is amended.

Ballot Requirements

The constitution in the state says that only legislature can start the ballot measure. Three-fifths of the Senate and House must approve the matter to go to the ballot. Already, legislation was introduced to seek input from voters on the lottery as well as a gaming compact with the tribe.

Lawmakers have also filed a bill to allow sports betting at the tribe’s casinos along with the dog and horse race tracks in the state. If any of these proposals are passed into law, it would be a huge change for Alabama. The state has long been one with a conservative view when it comes to gambling. Residents often travel out of state to purchase lottery tickets as well as experience full-scale casinos.

If the state can expand it offerings, it would help with the recovery efforts. Since 2020, there have been several federal disaster and emergency declarations. The state has suffered from hurricanes as well as tornadoes and the COVID-19 pandemic. Having a new source of revenue would be an essential step in seeing the state get back on its feet.

During her recent State of the State address, Governor Ivey said that she has always believed that the people should have the final say. She feels that if a gambling expansion can be established in an accountable and transparent way, then it can be good for the state. New revenues would be instant as operators would have to pay fees to get started.

She is confident that lawmakers will be thoughtful and deliberate as they consider this issue. The Poarch Indians are ready to move forward and hope to see lawmakers pass legislation to get the ball rolling on additional gaming options. We shall keep a close eye on developments and report on any legislative changes or new considerations involving the gambling industry as they are made public.

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