Sports Betting in Alabama Could be Worth Nearly $1 Billion Per Year

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Sports Betting in Alabama Could be Worth Nearly $1 Billion Per Year

With the passing of "The Gambling Control" bill by the Senate Tourism Committee this past March, there seemed to be some momentum for legal sports betting in Alabama. But then it all turned out to be fool's gold—despite projections that had the state reaping lucrative financial benefits.

Alabama essentially killed the latest gambling bill in April. That might even be an understatement. They didn't even really discuss it during their latest House and Senate minutes. And now, as a result, the legalization of sports betting in Alabama isn't expected until at least 2023.

Opponents of legal Alabama sports betting have framed their stance in a variety of different fashions, citing everything from "It's unconstitutional" to the potential adverse economic impact it could have on those who develop gambling additions or the low-income neighborhoods in which casinos tend to get built and sportsbook operators have a penchant for heavily promoting. Other members of the House and Senate, meanwhile, didn't support the idea of implementing a state lottery, which would have been part of the latest sports betting bill.

A select group of people, however, simply don't believe legal sports betting is worth the logistics. "Alabama doesn't have any professional sports teams in any of the major North American leagues," they argue. "Why should we be so committed to legalizing something that's not a financial run?"

Except, as it turns out, this hypothetical logic is beyond flawed. Let's get into why.

Sports Betting in Alabama is Already Taking Place

First and foremost, simply assuming Alabama doesn't have a robust betting market ignores the facts: People throughout the state of Alabama are already gambling on sports.

Just consider what the latest bill was nicknamed: "The Gambling Control" initiative. Emphasis on "Control." Not "prohibit." Not "stop entirely." But "control." The facts lie in that single word, and there are those within the Alabama government who understand as much.

“This is not an expansion bill, this is a control bill,” Greg Albritton, a republican state senator, told Alabama Public Television. "Can you imagine how much money was won or lost in the last three minutes of the Iron Bowl, played in Alabama, by Alabama players–Auburn and Alabama–and the money went to Las Vegas?”

This is the correct way to view the legalization of sports betting throughout the United States. Many see it as an innocuous business, but even if you don't, supporting its legalization isn't necessarily an endorsement. It's an admission that it's already happening, that money is going to be wagered through it, and that the state might as well reap some of the benefits associated with it. Think of it, at its worst, like big Tobacco. Not everyone endorses the idea of smoking or is okay with the health risks inherent of it, but states sell cigarettes, cigars, etc. anyway, because the tax revenue generated is lucrative.

Alabama is Excluding Themselves from a Billion-Dollar Market

Though Senator Albritton may have asked the "How much money was won or lost when Alabama and Auburn played each other?" question rhetorically in order to make a point, he actually made a legitimate inquiry—whether he meant to or not.

Critics of legal sports betting are correct on one thing: Alabama is not inundated with professional sports franchises. But that doesn't mean that residents don't watch or bet on the NFL, along with other sports. More importantly, the universities of Auburn and Alabama are two flagship NCAA football programs. People in Alabama are, at minimum, absolutely willing to bet on college football.

Take the latest college football National Championship game in which Alabama participated. Experts estimated that $30 million was wagered on that matchup just in Las Vegas alone. That doesn't account for people in Alabama who use offshore sportsbooks or who might cross state lines for legal sports betting in Mississippi, North Carolina or Tennessee.

Even more absurd, a special 12-person panel convened by Alabama governor Kay Ivey back in 2020 authored a study that projected casino gaming alone in the state would generate around $400 million per year. Those forecasts did not factor in the state lottery or, more pointedly, the money that could be generated from legal sports betting. 

Knowing how much sports betting money other states in the south have taken in during their inaugural year of legalization, Alabama could be leaving nearly $1 billion on the table when accounting for both casino and sports gambling. Take the neighboring Tennessee, for example. More than $375 million in total wagers were placed there in the first year after they okayed betting. And while they have a larger sports market overall, Alabama can actually expect a larger windfall in the interim, since they'd likely glean a ton of business from sports betting in Florida, after the Sunshine State repealed its own gambling laws before the start of 2022.

Sports Betting in Alabama is Inevitable

Anyone in Alabama unhappy with the current sports betting laws needn't worry too much. You can find trustworthy odds providers willing to take your bets from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks.

Beyond that, it's also fair to assume sports betting will inevitably be legal in Alabama. 

Not only is legal sports betting now in the majority of states, but local governments can't ignore the potential tax profits for long. That includes Alabama, which has proposed a 20 percent tax rate on casinos and sportsbook operators. And, well, 20 percent of almost $1 billion is certainly more than 0 percent of whatever money is already being spent on illegal gambling.

Check out 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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