Voters May Prefer a State Lottery to the Legalization of Alabama Sports Betting?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Voters May Prefer a State Lottery to the Legalization of Alabama Sports Betting?

Evidence continues to mount that Alabama sports betting may remain on the backburner for the foreseeable future.

Before any gambling enthusiasts in the region panic, this is different from saying The Crimson State won’t even acknowledge the possibility. Discussions focused on the prospects of sports betting in Alabama are a fairly regular occurrence. They may vary in substance, and officials have yet to approve previously proposed pieces of legislation that would green light sports gambling. But we’re not talking about a state like Utah, which has yet to even propose a bill or more than loosely mention the subject. 

Alabama has very much considered the legalization of sports betting, on numerous occasions. That may not seem like much. And it is, in many ways, nothing more than a faint silver lining. But it’s something.

Still, the path to legalized Alabama sports gambling has long been peppered with various roadblocks. And now, another one might be emerging: voter sentiment.

Poll Shows that State Lottery Proposals are More Popular Among Voters Than Alabama Sports Betting Initiatives

Decatur Daily, an independent media outlet, recently conducted a poll that posed the following question: What should Alabama legalize first, sports betting or a state lottery? The results, so far, tilt overwhelmingly towards the latter.

About 75.5 percent of respondents believe Alabama should focus on creating a state lottery. Meanwhile, only 4.1 percent of participants think sports betting should be the top priority. That is a colossal chasm separating the two.

What’s more, the poll found that there are more respondents against both a state lottery and sports betting than there are those who favor the latter. Roughly 16.4 percent of participants answered the question with “neither.” 

To be sure, informal polls like this one are not meant to be gospel. We don’t know how many people actually provided an answer. Nor do we know whether the results are possibly skewed by online respondents who live outside Alabama.

Still, even the most casual of polls can be pretty informative, provided they generate enough participation. And based on these results, it sure seems like Alabama sports betting isn’t that much of a priority among the state’s residents. 

Why Alabamians Might Prefer a State Lottery to Legalized Sports Gambling

This, of course, raises the question of why

Why are more Alabamans drawn to the formation of a state lottery than sports betting? And why do so many just seem against the idea of sports gambling, period.

The first part of this is easier to explain. State lotteries cast a wider net of interest because of how generalized they are. Whether it’s scratch-offs or massive powerball drawings, state lotteries don’t require someone to have a specific interest or to create an account, provide personal information and deal with the deposits and transfers. Customers can pop into stores and pick up scratch-offs or tickets and go about their day. 

That isn’t the case when dealing with retail gambling operators or online sportsbooks in the United States. Placing wagers on events necessitates extra steps. It also, for the most part, demands a consistent interest in sports. You’re bound to get more casual, one-off and infrequent customers for the state lottery. The sports betting industry, though, relies on repeat users. That may not be a problem during the college football betting season. Alabamians are heavily invested in the success of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team. But their interest ebbs and flows during other times of the year. That’s the nature of markets that do not have any pro sports teams in their market. 

On top of that, state lottery games also tend to provide a bigger payoff relative to the initial stakes. Players can spend a couple of dollars on a ticket and walk away with 10 times, 100 times, 1,000 times or, in extreme cases, 1,000,000 times that amount in winnings. Sports betting cannot compete with those circumstances; you’re never going to make that much off a winning wager. Oftentimes, you’re lucky to double your initial investment. And if you’re getting on wager types like the point spread or over/under totals, you’re not even going to make that much. 

Is There Really a Lack of Support for Alabama Sports Betting Among Voters?

Unless the government or a state-run university conducts their own study, it’s tough to say how much we should read into these latest findings. And yet, the results to the one posed by Decatur Daily seem to align with the general sentiment of state legislature members.

For starters, many officials have maintained that Alabama sports betting can’t be legalized without the formation of a state lottery. This makes some sense. More than a handful of states use their lottery departments to help regulate their sports betting market.

Legislature members have also long been concerned with preserving alternative forms of gambling. For instance, during the last round of discussions, officials worried about how Alabama sports betting would impact revenue streams for bingo halls.

Once more, none of this means Alabama will never legalize sports gambling. It will happen someday. Perhaps it even happens in the next couple of years. But one thing seems clear: If and when Alabama legalizes sports betting, it’ll likely be in tandem with or after the formation of a state lottery.

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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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