Multiple Obstacles Still Stand in the Way of Alabama Sports Betting Legalization

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 7, 2024 08:00 PM
Multiple Obstacles Still Stand in the Way of Alabama Sports Betting Legalization

The legalization of Alabama sports betting in 2024 is starting to desperately want for hope. Can the Crimson State salvage their latest effort to amend and expand their gaming laws? 

That’s the question interested stakeholders are asking. And it seems as if we’ll get our answer soon enough—no matter what that answer may be.

Two bills that would legalize sports betting in Alabama are currently still in play: House Bill 151 (HB 151) and House Bill 152 (152). As their names show, they originated in and were subsequently approved by members from the Alabama House of Representatives. However, once they reached the Senate, officials wound up removing Alabama sports gambling from both initiatives

“We are aware that we have sports betting in the state going on, same thing with online betting,’ Senator Greg Albritton said at the time. ‘Neither of those issues are being addressed in this package, and the reason for it frankly is because we do not have the votes to get those incorporated here.’”

Almost immediately, many believed that this development spelled doom and gloom for efforts to legalize sports gambling in Alabama. The two sports betting bills have essentially morphed into Alabama state lottery bills

But this apparently doesn’t fly with members of the House. While HB 151 and HB 152 have their fair share of detractors, they also have plenty of support across both political parties. The House reiterated as much once the Senate sent the bills back to approve their changes. These amendments were swiftly, and thoroughly, rejected.

Now, with the Alabama state legislature scheduled to adjourn on May 20, lawmakers on both sides of the fence are scrambling to find a compromise. As of this writing, they have a little over five weeks to get it done. Can they do it?

Alabama Sports Betting Bill Sponsor Criticizes Senate for Making Changes

Representative Chris Blackshear, a Republican, is among the sponsors of the 2024 Alabama sports betting initiatives. When asked about the Senate removing legal sports gambling from the proposals, he didn’t hold back. From Legal Sports Report’s Sam McQuillan:

“Rep. Chris Blackshear criticized the changes Thursday, claiming they leave up to half a billion dollars annually ‘on the table.’ ‘They had it for three weeks, we worked on it for 15 months, and I think there are some details we can provide to them that may help them understand why we sent the package that we did to them,’ Blackshear said on the House floor. There is currently no time slated for the committee to meet, according to a legislative spokesperson.”

That “half a billion dollars” figure reads like hyperbole. And it just might be. But the original versions of HB 151 and HB 152 allowed online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the Crimson State’s market. That in itself is a big deal. The overwhelming majority of sports bets placed in the USA are processed through mobile wagering sites. In some regions, we’re talking about more than 95 percent of all transactions. The ease and accessibility that have become hallmarks of online sports betting apps in the United States ensures lucrative opportunities for every region. This includes one like Alabama, which does not have a professional sports team in-market.

It should also be noted that Representative Blackshear wasn’t referring only to Alabama sports betting legalization. The bills also approved the opening of up to 10 casinos as well as the creation of an Alabama state lottery. Marry all those potential revenue streams together, and that’s why $500 million per year could be at stake.

The Biggest Roadblock to Alabama Sports Betting in 2024 is…

All of this raises a simple question: Where do members from the House and Senate diverge the most? From the outside looking in, the method of Alabama sports betting that gets legalized appears to be the biggest issue.

Despite writing sports gambling out of the bills altogether, the Senate is willing to negotiate a gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. This theoretical agreement would afford the tribe exclusive rights to retail and online sports betting in Alabama.

But House members are reluctant to create a “tribal monopoly” over Alabama sports betting. A similar setup, as many know, has created a boatload of drama over the future of Florida sports betting. Beyond that, House members seem to believe that green lighting only tribal sports gambling will repress projected tax revenue. They also think it will be harder to regulate online sports betting in Alabama.  

How this ends is anyone’s guess. The committee may not have a set time to meet and recalibrate, but more dialogue is expected to take place. If the House and Senate can find common ground, HB 151 and/or HB 152 would appear on the 2024 Alabama electoral ballot. And at that point, the fate of Alabama sports betting would lie in the hands of state voters.

If we’re being brutally honest, though, it doesn’t sound like either sports gambling bill will make it that far. The Senate’s decision to remove sports betting from the agenda entirely speaks volumes. And it's deafening to the point that their stance might be irreversible under the current six-week(ish) timeframe.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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