Alabama Officially Sitting Out Sports Betting Debate in 2023

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 16, 2023 08:00 PM
Alabama Officially Sitting Out Sports Betting Debate in 2023

The legalization of sports betting in Alabama will be approved one day. That day is not coming in 2023.

Despite extensive reports and projections on how much The Yellowhammer State stands to make annually with legal sports gambling, the subject has not been up for discussion during 2023 legislative meetings. And it isn't clear whether this stance will shift before the state legislature reconvenes next time around.

As John Sharp recently wrote for "The last time a comprehensive gambling package was almost approved by state lawmakers was in 2021. Alabama lawmakers in 2023, are sitting out on the gambling debate. Not one piece of legislation has been introduced this session to legalize gambling of any form."

This development isn't necessarily a surprise. Alabama elected not to tackle sports betting in 2022, either. They have long been among the holdouts on the fence about even discussion the subject. It has now been two years since the last serious proposal.

Then again, initial reports suggested sports betting was added to Alabama's 2023 legislature agenda. To go from that to not even contemplating a new gambling proposal represents quite the regression.

So, what gives? Why is the state yet again punting on gambling expansion? What does this mean for the potential timeline of Alabama sports betting? This is a situation without many answers right now. Let's see if we can find some.

Bingo Halls are At the Center of Alabama Sports Betting Debate

Opposition to Alabama sports betting takes many forms and focuses on a vast array of concerns. However, the adverse impact legal sports gambling could have on the state's bingo halls is among the strongest forces driving the stance of most officials. Here's Sharp with more for

"Alabama also has bingo halls long established in some of its poorer areas within the state. Those facilities bring jobs and revenues to areas starving for both, and lawmakers in the Black Belt have been hesitant toward approving any comprehensive gambling plan that would erode that. 'The folks who represent their areas, especially when we are talking about charity bingo in the state, are dependent on the local revenues that come from those entities,' said state Senator Chris Elliott, R-Daphne. 'They don’t want to see that money go away. They are insistent that if we talk about a lottery, their gaming interests are blessed.'"

This isn't an unreasonable concern. The introduction of sports betting can infringe upon other business models. Tribal casinos have typically been among the most vocal, but any brick-and-mortar gaming operation stands to suffer if online sports betting becomes a staple. Bingo halls are certainly included here. Patrons may be less likely to visit those establishments if they're simply able to wager on other activities from their mobile devices.

At the same time, there are steps that can be taken to protect existing gaming models already up and running inside Alabama. We've seen other states insist on corporate sportsbooks partnering with tribal casinos. Most recently, the newest Minnesota sports betting bill cut racetracks into the profits so their business model would be preserved but wouldn't infringe upon casino sports gambling licenses. In essence, racetracks won't be allowed to accept sports bets in Minnesota. Casinos were staunchly against that addendum with online sportsbooks getting set to enter the market. But receiving a certain amount of money also ensure racetracks wouldn't be left in the cold.

Alabama could absolutely take a similar approach. Their unwillingness to explore these scenarios might say more about their gaming infrastructure than anything else.

Sports Betting Projections Suggest Alabama is Leaving Tens of Millions of Dollars on the Table

Whatever the reasoning behind Alabama's stance against sports betting, it shouldn't have anything to do with demand. Other markets are bigger and more lucrative, but The Yellowhammer State has serious earning potential.

According to a 2020 gambling policy report, Alabama sports betting could be worth $20 million in additional tax revenue each year. This same report says that the legalization of an Alabama state lottery could result in $200 million to $300 million in revenue on an annual basis. And finally, the report suggests commercial casinos in Alabama could bring between $300 million and $400 million in tax revenue to the state each year.

Believe it or not, the projections might wind up being too conservative. They are nearly three years old, after all. And there's been no need to commission more updated figures until—or unless—the state starts taking the legalization of Alabama sports betting. What's more, the projections don't take into account money already being spent on these exact activities.

Frequenting commercial casinos can be more difficult for Alabamians, but they have options when it comes to playing the lottery and wagering on sports. Many of the sites that appear in our reviews of the best online sportsbooks allow almost anyone in the United States to sign up and create an account. Industry experts also noted to Sharpe within his piece that Alabama residents "are supporting adjacent states by purchasing lottery tickets at convenience stores near the state border."

Still, let's go ahead and use the 2020 projections as gospel. Between the addition of a lottery, commercialized casinos and sports betting, Alabama could reel in $500-plus million in extra tax revenue every single year. So while they may be opting out of the sports gambling discussion in 2023, we couldn't bank on that stance holding. There's too much money at stake for Alabama to avoid the expansion of their gaming laws for much longer.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

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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